Wilmington Public Safety Strategies Commission

Project Purpose/Goal

The Police Foundation was engaged by the State of Delaware to support the Wilmington Public Safety Strategies Commission, a newly formed commission tasked with examining crime in Wilmington, Delaware, and developing recommendations on what strategies could be used to reduce crime in Wilmington, the state’s largest city. The commission was created by the state Legislature at the urging of Gov. Jack Markell after national news reports identified Wilmington as having one of the highest rates of violent crime for a city its size. The legislation required that the report be completed within 60 days.


Approach, Results and Implications

The Police Foundation conducted an analysis of Wilmington crime with the support of Dr. Jerry Ratcliffe of Temple University, identifying the unique nature of Wilmington’s crime hot spots through geo-spatial, temporal and other analysis. Extensive interviews were conducted with police leaders and officers, as well as with hundreds of community members and political leaders. An institutional analysis was developed of the structure of the Wilmington Police Department, how its officers were deployed, and the potential effectiveness of those practices.  A financial analysis was also conducted examining how the Department made use of the resources available to it, including federal grant resources and supplemental funding from the City.  Finally, a review of best practices in use by cities of similar size and nature was conducted and tied to evidence of effectiveness, offering recommendations for evidence-based strategies that could be replicated in Wilmington.

The report was completed and submitted to the commission and legislature within the 60-day deadline and provided more than 100 recommendations on policing and crime reduction practices that could make Wilmington safer. The recommendations pointed to the need to better manage of attrition, overtime and staff allocation; improve investigative practices, increase community engagement and policing efforts and giving officers more problem-solving authority; reform the citizen complaint process to increase accountability and trust; better utilize of data and analysis; and changes to the police department’s management structure.

The recommendations were unanimously approved by the commission and supported by a majority of the Wilmington City Council. Since the report was submitted, the Mayor and Police Chief have indicated that they will pursue the implementation of more than 80% of the recommendations, including many that they reported had already been implemented.  In addition, based on one of the report’s recommendations, Delaware legislators introduced a bill that will ultimately provide more thorough and timely processing of ballistics evidence recovered by law enforcement throughout the state, which, if passed, will allow Delaware to become the second state in the U.S. after New Jersey to pass such a law.


Funding & Collaboration

The Wilmington Public Safety Strategies Commission report was required by state legislation (Delaware HJR 2) and signed into law by Gov. Jack Martell on January 29, 2015. The legislation authorized state funding for the project, which was awarded to the Police Foundation and another organization, Vigilant Resources International (VRI).  Police Foundation Research Fellow Dr. David Thomas also played in instrumental role in the project, in addition to Dr. Ratcliffe from Temple University.



The Wilmington Public Safety Strategies Commission final report is available for download here.


Point(s) of Contact

Jim Burch
Vice President, Strategic Initiatives
(202) 833-1460

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