Proceeds with Mayfaire zoning amendment
Wilmington City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that allocated $309,595 to the Wilmington Police Department for the creation of a mobile field force during its Feb. 5 meeting at City Hall.
The mobile field force is a 12-person team intended to combat fear and displacement of crime throughout Wilmington.
Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous presented the concept, explaining the unit would move about the city as fluidly as crime moves, establishing a stronger police presence in areas as soon as it’s needed without jeopardizing officers’ long-term investigations and beats.
“We see something heating up, we can get people on the ground,” Evangelous said.
The force is split into an A team and a B team.
The A team is a group of uniformed officers immediately deployed to reassure citizens and combat fear by establishing a visible police presence.
The B team is a plainclothes group conducting surveillance, gathering information and apprehending offenders.
Evangelous defined the downtown area from Fifth Street to the Cape Fear River, between the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge and the Isabel Holmes Bridge. He showed a 66.8-percent reduction in part one crime — murder, robbery, rape, burglary, auto theft and arson — between 2002 and 2012.
Evangelous also said 80 percent of city crime was initiated by 10 to 20 percent of criminals, and added the new field force will focus its efforts on apprehending repeat offenders.
“Hopefully we can get the repeat offenders off the street,” Evangelous said. “That will have the largest effect on crime.”
The resolution passed with few questions from council members, and Evangelous said he hopes to have the team fully operational by April.
A resolution proposed by Councilman Charlie Rivenbark asking city staff to amend the city’s land development code outside of its normal regulatory amendment process caused confusion and disagreement among council members.
The request for amendment came from Steve Anderson, a developer who recently built a four-story office building in Mayfaire and would like to put up signs prohibited by current codes.
Current land development code states that amendments to the code are processed twice a year, but Anderson would like his request approved faster, as early as March.
Councilman Kevin O’Grady was the first to voice concerns that making a special exception for Anderson would open a door to staff “constantly looking at stuff.”
Councilwoman Laura Padgett echoed O’Grady’s concerns.
“I assume we are not so over endowed with planning staff that they have extra time,” Padgett said. “This would be interrupting their normal activity.”
Councilman Neil Anderson suggested that waiting to process all of the requests twice a year would be “lobbing it all on [planning staff] at one time,” and added that the council refusing to budge on the subject could be seen as unfriendly to business.
“I’d like to see us be more flexible,” Anderson said.
Padgett then suggested that it could also be seen as unfriendly to business if the city were to change its codes more often.
In the end, the resolution passed 4 to 2, with only Padgett and Councilwoman Margaret Haynes opposed.