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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Beach gang activity concerns rise

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Drug and vandalism violations in Wrightsville Beach are increasing concerns about possible future gang activity in town.

During the quarterly Chat with the Chief Thursday, April 17, Wrightsville Beach police chief Dan House said officers have been running into a few more drug violations than normal in the downtown area.

There were 96 drug crimes from April 2012 through April 2013, and there were 89 drug crimes from April 2013 through April 2014.

“The ones we’ve been running into are possession,” House said. “But they’re getting them from somewhere. Are they bringing them with them? I don’t know 100 percent.”

There has also been a slight increase in weapons violations, with 12 from April 2013 through April 2014 compared to 10 from April 2012 through April 2013. Vandalism crimes are up to 90 from April 2013 through April 2014, compared to 61 from April 2012 through April 2013.

“These kind of crimes can be consistent with or perceived as gang activity,” House said. “Now all of the symbols that we have had, we’ve had not only Wilmington’s Gang Task Force, but also New Hanover County’s, they’ve been down.  …They’re 100 percent sure it’s not gang related. But my concern is that if we have somebody down here doing that, are we going to get a rival gang tag over their tag?”

He said the department wants to try to change that perception. The problems generally stem from the late-night downtown area with suspects ranging from 20-27 years old.

“These are still only pockets of this type of activity,” House said. “We’re not having a lot of it. We’re trying to contain it.”

The town is waiting for the North Carolina Department of Transportation to replace the 35 mph speed sign on Salisbury Street that has been spray painted. For other town-owned property, it is trying to remove graffiti as quickly as possible.

The department regularly meets with bar owners before the summer season begins, but will be meeting earlier this year to discuss these problems.

On April 16, Wrightsville Beach police officers began their beach patrol. Officers will be on the beach every weekend for the entire weekend.

“Our enforcement plan is the same as last year,” House said. “…We’re asking our regular officers to step up now that we have four-wheel drive vehicles that can actually get out on the beach … really concentrating their efforts between Stone and Salisbury Street and Johnnie Mercer’s Pier.”

Beginning May 1, daily bicycle patrol for officers will become mandatory.

House again recognized Captain P. Burdette for recently completing the FBI National Academy, consisting of graduate courses, 34 miles of swimming and 23 miles of running.

To submit questions for the next Chat with the Chief, email Diana Zeunen at [email protected] or text message 910-622-8594.

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