A New Hanover County Sheriff's deputy talks with neighbors.
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A lot of the violence in the past couple of months has happened in Wilmington's Public Housing communities. Now, more patrols are out and hoping to change that.
About a week ago, six Wilmington Police officers teamed up with six New Hanover County Sheriff's deputies. With the extra manpower, the same specialized officers are now able to patrol the housing developments every single day of the week.
Officers say it's helping them not only establish a presence but also build a relationship with the neighbors.
Officers say they are getting out of their cars and walking around talking to people. They say it's enabled them to get some tips, and they are hoping to gain peoples' trust even more.
Officers are also working to enforce the housing authority's rules. They say one of the major violations they see is trespassing. Right now, the WHA has a list of about 600 people, many with records, who are not allowed in developments. Officers say they have a zero tolerance policy and when they see these people they are arresting them and charging them with second-degree trespassing.
They hope the extra enforcement sends the message that crime is not welcome.
"We are changing the environment that has allowed criminals to feel comfortable in some parts of the city," explained Sgt. Mat Ingram. "We can make all the arrests we want - but every time we make one another one comes in and takes the spot of the person we arrested, what we are doing is trying to change that and make it uncomfortable for those criminals to commit those crimes."
He says they are already starting to notice a difference. For example, when they patrol at night they no longer see large groups of dozens of people gathered outside the units. Now, he says the groups are much smaller. He says part of the reason is due to the colder weather, and hopes by the time it warms up in the spring, that will be the norm.
Ingram says officers also met with members of the Housing Authority on Thursday night to finalize proposed new rules. Some of the new rules include, curfews, permitted parking and limiting the number of people inside housing authority units.