WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Leaders of the Wilmington Housing Authority approved several new policies Monday night for families living in public housing, but some are already questioning their effectiveness.
"Is this a facade or are you genuinely concerned?" asked Sonya Muldrow, who lives in the Creekwood community.
Muldrow was one of a handful of women to speak at the WHA Board of Commissioners meeting at her neighborhood's community center. Most of their comments focused on the increased violence in Wilmington and a need for a solution to keep them safe.
Chairman Jeff Hovis said their words were expected.
"People are scared," he said. "There's a lot of things going on."
The policies passed Monday night were in the works before recent violence became the primary focus for the housing authority, local law enforcement and families all around the city. Hovis said each policy will take effect at a different time, because they are at different stages in the implementation process.
"What are we supposed to do know?" asked a concerned mother who does not allow her children outside of her home in Creekwood.
A curfew for children under the age of 18 should be in place by the weekend, according to Hovis. Mandatory ID's for every resident of public housing are expected to be complete by mid-November. Almost 60 of the 150 residents who haven't applied for their IDs live in Creekwood.
WHA commissioners asked Monday's audience to be patient.
"We can't just knee jerk," said Hovis. "We have to really work at making sure the things we implement are the best for our residents long term."
Other policies passed Monday night include enforcing parking permits for residents and towing anyone without them, limiting visitors for residents and prohibiting smoking in the housing units.
An investigative report by our news team also spurred a policy changed approved Monday night. Any family with a household income more than 80% of the median average for Wilmington will lose eligibility for public housing programs.
Several members of Wilmington Police Department spoke with residents about changes they're considering with help from WHA.
They include adding the 8 public housing communities to the Shot Spotter technology, which helps police pinpoint the location of gunfire. Commissioners approved a plan for staff to find a funding plan between WHA and the city of Wilmington.
Another option in the works is redirecting traffic through Creekwood, specifically. Sgt. Ingram with WPD said the idea is to reduce the number of access roads into the community from several to one or two.
Initial opposition to the idea compared it to boxing families into their neighborhood. Ingram said that is not the intention. Instead, he said the purpose is to keep the outsiders who cause so much trouble from ever entering the community.
Ingram also mentioned a recent trip to Charleston by members of WPD's housing unit.
Police in Wilmington want to know how the same amount of officers in Charleston can maintain a much larger housing population. Ingram said there are several strategies for leaders in the Port City to consider.
They include mandatory lights on the front and back of all properties, planting holly bushes around the neighborhood's perimeter for a natural divider, and forgoing citations to trespassers and simply arresting them.
Hovis said he's already been to Charleston, Atlanta and Washington D.C. to learn how other cities manage their public housing properties. With so many options on the table, he stressed the need for continued interest from the community.
"We have to constantly keep improving what we're doing," he said.