Crime has decreased since 2021 in Wilmington, Delaware, whose Democratic mayor is on record opposing any potential moves to defund the city police department.
“There’s certainly been some people protesting police behavior, but across the board we have one of the finest police departments in America, as far as I’m concerned,” Democratic Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki told Fox News Digital.
Regarding any murmurs of defunding the police in Delaware’s largest city, Purzycki said, “Not even a whimper, we wouldn’t consider it.”
Wilmington, which has historically had crime problems and was dubbed “Murder Town USA” in 2014, has seen a 50% reduction in murders compared to the record high in 2021, according to statistics provided to Fox News Digital by the Wilmington Police Department.
There has also been a 25% reduction in shooting incidents and shooting victims, and a 16% reduction in overall Part 1 crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault and felony theft, the department said.
‘Our system completely collapsed’
Purzycki attributed the decrease in part to community support for police, noting how officers “feel under siege” in some other cities. “I think, generally speaking, the community is very supportive,” he said. “The police chief goes out and walks the neighborhood, as do I. I feel good about that dynamic.”
“Anytime we have police misbehavior, the chief is pretty swift when it comes to weeding those people out,” the mayor added. He said that Wilmington is largely free from the tension between police and the Black community that exists in some other places. “People in our community are appreciative of the job police do,” he said.
“At the end of 2019, crime started to spike, and we immediately went into the pandemic, which did something that was really catastrophic for us and cities across the country: it closed our courts,” Purzycki continued. He explained that courts could not process charges and that “judges were loath to put people in prison, where COVID was a serious problem.”
“I think all that was that our system completely collapsed,” he said. “And we got through 2020 to the end of 2021, we started to get relief from the COVID restrictions, and you saw the system start to work.” He also mentioned a bill passed by the Delaware General Assembly that raised bail for signal offenses.
“Judges have gotten much more serious about letting people out, and unfortunately that’s the short-term solution right now, as you can have dangerous potential criminals walking around with firearms, which is so prevalent today,” he said.
Purzycki also said implementing GunStat has been “so effective,” which is an initiative “focusing additional multi-agency resources on removing guns from City streets,” according to a city press release. “The goal of the enhanced effort is to arrest, prosecute, and jail individuals who commit violent gun crimes and possess guns illegally.”
Joyce Lee Malcolm, a professor of law at George Mason University School of Law, told Fox News Digital that strict gun laws are not necessarily helping Wilmington’s crime rate.
“The state as a whole does not have an especially high homicide and crime rate, but Wilmington really does, with 60 crimes per 1,000 residents, one of the highest in the country,” Malcolm said. “There is a lot of poverty in Wilmington and gang violence. Strict gun laws have not stopped the violence, but in fact make it harder for law-abiding citizens to protect themselves.”
“The mayor claimed the criminal justice system had been on pause for over a year during COVID, leaving accused out in the neighborhoods waiting trial. But while he argued that poverty and other serious problems need to be addressed, in the meantime he wanted to focus on guns,” Malcolm said.
“I can’t finger the exact cause of Wilmington’s high crime rate, but poverty and strict gun laws are serious factors,” Malcolm added.
Part of Wilmington’s problem lies in its proximity to violent cities such as Philadelphia and Baltimore, the consequences of whose crime policies spill over into the small state, according to John Lott, who is president of the Crime Prevention Research Center.
“Given that Philly is just 30 miles from Wilmington, it is very common for criminals to move between the two cities,” Lott told Fox News Digital. “Soros-backed prosecutors in Philadelphia and Delaware County in Pennsylvania have also been unwilling to prosecute violent criminals, and I am sure that it has had some spillover effect for nearby Delaware, and in particular New Castle County in Delaware.”
Charles Stimson, a policy expert in crime control at the Heritage Foundation and a former violent crimes prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., echoed Lott’s assertion.
Noting how crime has gone up nationwide, Stimson noted that cities with skyrocketing crime often have local anti-police rhetoric and “rogue, progressive” district attorneys in common.
“The problem with Delaware, especially Wilmington, is that it’s close to Philly, and it’s also on I-95, which is a drug corridor,” Stimson told Fox News Digital.
“Of course, Baltimore is a crime-infested hellhole and a big drug corridor place too, so as you go from Richmond to D.C. to Baltimore to Philly, you pass Wilmington,” Stimson said. “And so Wilmington is sort of a way station for criminals who toggle between D.C., Baltimore and Philly. So you’re inevitably going to have spillover crimes and turf wars in Wilmington.”