Historically low numbers can't erase the high fear of crime - WSFX - FOX Wilmington, NC

Historically low numbers can't erase the high fear of crime

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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Chief Ralph Evangelous has presented impressive statistics to the public, saying Wilmington crime rates hit a historic low in 2012. However, he says the fear of crime is higher than ever-- pushing a new mobile force team to hit the streets.

The Wilmington Police Department has been organizing a 'mobile field force' for a while now, however the recent murder of 19-year-old Joshua Proutey in the central business district is what is moving the force into action, Evangelous hopes, by April.

"You know that poor kid was murdered at the USO building and you know the public doesn't care that crime has gone down. That incident happened and they're scared," said Evangelous.

City council showed full support through a 6-0 vote for the WPD to move forward with the initiative, after Chief Evangelous explained to them even though crime statistics are impressively low, fear is extremely high.

"It's the fear of crime is incredibly powerful. We want to have our officers out there, visible to residents and criminals," he said.

The WPD is asking for $309,595 a year for the mobile field force. The force will be comprised of seven uniformed and 5 non-uniformed officers. 

"What makes this force unique is that officers don't have to stick to particular districts like they normally do. They can move wherever the incident occurs," said Evangelous.

Evangelous said violent crimes-- murder, forcible rape and aggravated assault-- have decreased 43% citywide in the past decade. However, one pervasive crime that continues to hold steady in the crime statistics is property crime. 

"Theft and burglaries are such an issue in our city, often driving up the crime numbers that we work hard to keep down. So, the mobile field force will give uniformed officers the chance to get out in the neighborhoods and walk and talk. They will show the residents they are around, and show the repeat offenders they are watching. However this is not just neighborhood policing," he said.

Evangelous said the same 15-20% of repeat offenders are responsible for 80% of the city's crimes.

The WPD plans to get this force out into action sometime in spring 2013.

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