Around six citizens came to Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House’s Thursday, July 17, Chat with the Chief at Wrightsville Beach Town Hall.
On the island House said WBPD has been working with the Wilmington Police Department, the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Department and North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement to clean up the downtown Wrightsville Beach area during peak bar hours.
One of the concerns in the downtown area WBPD is addressing is the growing number of violations that could be related to gangs or gang activity. House said a rise in the amount of vandalism, drug-related crimes, weapons-related crimes, and assaults and affrays could be related to gang activity in Wilmington spilling onto Wrightsville Beach.
“We share information with the Wilmington Police Department and New Hanover County Sheriff’s gang task forces to try to identify certain people that are coming down here,” House said. “We have had validated gang members that have been in the downtown area.”
Working with the bar owners will also be critical in addressing the issue, he added.
“We have been really working hard with the bar owners and they have been great,” House said. “We have been educating them on what to look for with gang activity and asking them to have their bouncers watch out for that kind of thing.”
The new downtown surveillance cameras recently installed will also help WBPD control the downtown area after dark.
Phase I of the installation is complete, which includes stationary cameras with digital zoom capability and pan tilt zoom where an officer can manipulate the camera from a mobile device. Other cameras like the one pointing toward the main downtown strip of North Lumina Avenue work well in the dark by pulling in all available ambient lighting to illuminate the scene.
House said those cameras could also be programed to turn on and follow areas based on analytics and trends.
“It is really going to change things for us with all the detail we can see now,” he said.
In his recap of the months of April through June, House said part one crimes, which include homicide, sexual assault, robbery, violent assault, burglary and larceny, were up three at 92 total. Although it was roughly the same number as April through June 2013, House said he would almost call it a reduction because of the amount of rainfall in May and June of 2013.
Part two crimes, which include fraud, vandalism and driving while impaired, were down by five for this April, May and June, House said.
The town ordinance violations were up 150 to 708 total for those three months this year. House said the Wrightsville Beach Police Department has especially been proactive in writing civil penalties for dogs on the beach and surfboard violations, and human waste violations were also higher this year, he added.
In the second year using a unified command center for policing Masonboro Island on the Fourth of July, House said the tactic worked even better than the first year. The number of people on Masonboro Island on the holiday dropped from around 3,500 in 2012 to around 1,200 in 2014, which House attributed to his department’s preventing illegal taxiing to the island.
One issue that will cause law enforcement agencies to act differently next Fourth of July is the growing number of people that choose to spend the holiday in Masons Inlet. House said there were around 300 boats in the northern inlet this year and there were multiple issues from that area, which will mean there will probably be officers stationed there next year, he said.