Poverty, Addiction To Blame For Increase Of Violent Crime In Delaware

By Keri Blakinger 11/16/15

A CDC study of Wilmington, Delaware showed a sharp increase in drug-related violence.

hooded man pointng gun.jpg

According to a CDC study, poverty, abuse, and addiction are to blame for the increase in violent crime in Delaware’s biggest city.

Wilmington, a city of about 70,000, saw 154 victims in 127 shooting incidents during 2013. That represents nearly a 45% increase over the previous two years. Overall, Delaware’s homicide rate has grown more quickly than any other state’s in the same timeframe.

The study began after the Wilmington mayor and the Division of Public Health approached the CDC with a request in 2014, according to NewsWorks. The idea was to examine medical, welfare, criminal, job, and education records since 2000 to determine the major risk factors associated with the commission of a gun crime.

The findings showed that young men with a history of poverty, abuse, addiction, and a lack of employment were most at risk. Just before committing their crime, 86% of shooters were unemployed.

Also, about half of the people involved in gun crimes had previously been crime victims themselves.

"Exposure to violence and victimization leads to violence and victimization," explained Delaware Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Rita Landgraf.

"The report indicates that all community stakeholders must begin exploring a preventative approach as we respond to violent crime," said Mayor Dennis Williams. "Policing should only represent one area of a comprehensive strategy to attack gun violence, but we must also proactively target and provide the necessary services to those individuals who are most likely to become violent offenders in the future."

To address the problem, the CDC recommended increasing the interaction and collaboration between social services agencies and creating a community advisory board to recommend services for high-risk youth.

The state has expressed an interest in funding some programs, and one Wilmington politician pointed out that such spending could save money in the long-run.

"We're spending $38,000 a year on prison, and look at the money being spent on funerals, family distress and trauma, on property damage, for loss of business," said Wilmington City Councilwoman Hanifa Shabazz. "So spend money in a way that will address this scientifically proven epidemic plaguing our community."

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.