By Kendall McGee | May 19, 2020 at 7:16 PM EDT – Updated May 19 at 8:24 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – City leaders are taking action on a disturbing increase of gun violence in the Port City.
The Wilmington Police Department says they have a three step plan expected to be announced in the coming weeks to curb the spike in crime. The enforcement component of the plan has already been put in motion with recent events, but the complete action plan is still under wraps.
Leaders with WPD say they understand it will take more than increased patrols to create meaningful change.
“We are taking a proactive approach, but its not just on the Wilmington Police Department and the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office alone to combat the rise in gunfire. We need the help from the community,” said Lt. Kelvin Hargrove with the Wilmington Police Department. ”I feel like we’ve lost touch with our youth. The only alternative they see is gun violence. We gotta stop it.”
Lt. Hargrove emphasizes that if you see something you need to say something to police.
“People wanna say its gang violence- Its not just gang violence. It comes from domestics, robberies, assaults. Not all of these… we shouldn’t categorize this as gang violence, its gun violence. We have to reduce gun violence in the city of Wilmington,” said Hargrove.
City leaders are also talking about the tragic increase in crime. Councilman Kevin Spears says the latest two shootings have hit extremely close to home. Monday’s victim, Shawn Grady, known as SkiDog by his loved ones, was one of Spears’ close friends.
He describes SkiDog as being a great friend who was known for making sure the neighborhood kids had shoes for school and throwing cookouts to feed and uplift people in the area. Grady’s death was especially difficult for Spears to process, given his friend’s involvement with the community.
“Like the ultimate disrespect and a slap in the face. The ultimate disrespect to someone who was working in this community, trying to save this community,” adds Spears. “The city is hurting. This community is really hurting. You would never wake up thinking it would happen to him.”
“Its not representative of the community. I don’t know if the totality of Wilmington understands that. This is not our way of life. We’re not okay with this,” said Spears. “This is not the norm for us. We want to be as safe as the people that live in Landfall and Wrightsville Beach, historic downtown Wilmington. We want to be as safe as anybody else.”
Spears emphasizes the people who live in Wilmington’s east side are busy trying to raise and support their families and violence should never be the norm for any neighborhood.
“We cant live like this. In this community, you’ve got people trying to raise their families,” said Spears. ”We’re about everything everybody else is about ….we’re about love, about working and helping and everything everyone else is about. Because of certain events, certain communities get a bad wrap. We wanna change that.“
While he hopes the partnership with the city and law enforcement will help reign in the crimes, Spears is personally challenging the community to 50 days without violence in memory of Grady. One day free of shootings and confrontations for each year Shawn Grady was alive.
“We want the community to be safe. If we can get to 50, we can get to 100, then we can get to 200 and then a year,” said Spears. “I just wanna see this city get back to what we know and love about it. Not all these shootings, not all this murder. We’re over it. We’ve been over it for a while, but we’re really over it now.”
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