Mayor of Two Cities
Jim Baker wants everyone in Wilmington to believe in its—in their—greatness. There’s just one small problem remaining to be solved…
(page 7 of 10)
In 2007 Baker and then-U.S. Attorney Colm Connolly established a Wilmington arm of the Federal Enforcement and Detention/Urban Policing Program, FED UP, an initiative to reduce shootings in Wilmington. Under FED UP, all adult felons found in possession of firearms are immediately placed in federal custody. Of the 50 FED UP cases prosecuted by the start of the year, 21 have been resolved, resulting in 20 guilty pleas—a 95 percent conviction rate.
On a circular table in Purzycki’s office, there is nothing to remind a visitor of the Wilmington Riverfront, no photos, blueprints or artist’s drawings. The table is filled with books with titles such as “What Works in Corrections,” “But They All Come Back” and “Code of the Street.”
Purzycki is co-chairman of Baker’s HOPE Commission, begun in June 2005. His reading is related to the commission’s chief goal: to identify and address the social and community issues related to crime and violence in Wilmington.
Baker charged the 25-member executive committee with examining existing social, educational, recreational and cultural programs, then improving their availability to residents of high-crime areas. In March 2006 the commission delivered a plan for strengthening communities, providing jobs and economic opportunities, incorporating community policing, mobilizing communities and spreading a general feeling of hope.
“We are tackling the larger issues of problems that affect every city in America,” Purzycki says. “In the ’70s, a war was declared on drugs that ended up jading people on all levels and disfiguring our cities. Yes, we have to intervene, but the bigger purpose is to close the gap between differing points of view. In Wilmington, there are neighborhoods in crisis, and our objective is to save human lives—as well as inspire them—in these neighborhoods.”
The commission has yielded mixed results. Former member Derrick Johnson, pastor of the Joshua Harvest Church, says the core mission of the group—find ways to reduce violence in the city—is caught up in “the paralysis of analysis.”
Page 8: Mayor of Two Cities, continues...