Futuristic Crime Fighting Fit for a Movie

New Castle County Chief uses technology to crack down on real problems.



In Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi thriller “Minority Report,” clairvoyants known as “precogs” reveal specific crimes just as they’re about to happen. Futuristic police speed to the scene and intercept the perp before he can do his dirty work.

Contemporary cops have no such luxury. But New Castle County law enforcement has come up with the next best thing, a computer-based strategy for anticipating where and when certain types of crime are likely to occur. The year-old Targeted Analytical Policing System has triggered sizable decreases in major crimes countywide and sharp increases in drug investigations and seizures.

The new approach is the brainchild of Col. Elmer Setting, who installed TAPS soon after becoming acting chief of police in late 2012. (County council confirmed his appointment in February 2013.) A 25-year veteran and former special-operations commander for New Castle County, Setting believed the department needed to change its crime-fighting model. “We were doing it wrong. We had to get off the 911 treadmill,” he says. “We were getting straight A’s in response time to serious crimes [murder, rape, robbery, shootings], but an F for lesser crimes, such as kids drinking in the park. If you handle the quality-of-life problems, you’ll address major crime as well.”

The concept of setting a tone by focusing on lower-level crime was first articulated by a pair of social scientists in the early 1980s. Dubbed the Broken Windows theory, it’s been the subject of law-enforcement debate ever since. But Setting had a hunch—and he asked Mike Walsh, a retired sergeant who is now a civilian analyst for the department, to evaluate county data for nonviolent crimes, including drug dealing. The study showed that the areas in which they occurred spawned most of the serious crimes as well. When Walsh probed further with in-house software, he identified the days and time frames typically associated with the various crimes. 

Just like that, a new level of intelligence had emerged. Without hiring new officers, Setting added a fourth mobile enforcement team and scheduled the units to cover the hot spots, including Edgemoor Gardens, Sparrow Run and several neighborhoods along Del. 9 outside Wilmington during the targeted periods. He then took his case to the rank-and-file.

“The buy-in from the workforce was evident,” says Joseph Bryant, the county’s director of public safety. “You could see it was working.”

And it kept on working. For 2013, the total number of criminal incidents in New Castle County fell by 10 percent, with a substantial decline in shootings (47 percent), homicides (41 percent), and assaults, robberies and burglaries (each about 27 percent). Meanwhile, drug investigations spiked by 64 percent, with seizures (by weight) increasing for cocaine/crack (35 percent), prescription drugs (31 percent), heroin/opiates (270 percent) and methamphetamine (an eye-popping 1,440 percent). 

Even more impressive, the dramatic turnaround came without additional manpower or dollars, as an anticipated drop in 911 calls accompanied the shifting of some patrol officers into TAPS zones. The results have been verified by the national Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies and have attracted the University of Delaware’s Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice as a research and grant-writing partner. There’s even some anecdotal evidence that real estate values have nudged higher in TAPS neighborhoods. 

Most significantly, though, the strategy of reducing serious crimes by tackling lesser crimes was validated. “We send the message that nuisance crimes are not tolerated,” says Setting. “Otherwise, drinking on the corner at 7 a.m. becomes a burglary at 9 a.m.”

Indeed, nuisances often turn into major arrests. Setting cites a recent example of an Edgemoor man urinating on his lawn. A MET unit (a sergeant and five officers) spotted him and, soon after, discovered a stash of drugs and weapons. “The guy didn’t want to miss any business by going inside,” says Setting.

A native of Wilmington’s Forty Acres neighborhood, Setting graduated from the police academy in 1989 after four years in the U.S. Navy. Tom Gordon was New Castle County’s chief of police at the time, and he addressed Setting’s class, emphasizing the need for “community policing.” 

A quarter-century later, Gordon, in his third term as county executive, would appoint Setting to his old job. In between, Setting attended a session at the Senior Management Institute for Police that featured a case study of New York City Transit Police Chief William Bratton’s clamping down on subway turnstile “jumpers.” The current New York City police commissioner created a law-abiding transit system that led to the department’s national accreditation in the early 1990s. 

Setting says his thinking has been shaped by the shared perspective of Gordon and Bratton. In New Castle County, technology has made their strategy an idea whose time has come. The software that launched TAPS is now bolstered by an internal website and other tools that provide every member of the force and other police departments (Wilmington and Delaware State Police among them) with an overview of the county’s high-crime areas. Setting designated Capt. Wendi Feeser the department’s first technology/grants officer and relies on his executive officer, Lt. Pat Crowell, to “make sure everything works.”

“He’s an enlightened chief,” says Gordon of Setting. “He’s pushing the limits.”

Gordon made “predictive policing” a cornerstone of his 2012 campaign for county executive, and he has long backed technology investment and related training. With TAPS’ success, county decision-makers are of like mind in terms of fighting crime. “You need the support of the executive and [county] council,” says Bryant. “And Elmer’s leadership has taken things to another level. It’s spread throughout the entire public-safety department.”

Classified as a yeoman (administrative/intelligence officer) in the Navy, Setting could handle just about every function aboard a missile cruiser. As such, he helped keep the sea lanes open off the coast of Libya in the mid-1980s. Similarly, during his police career, he’s held most major commands, including patrol and mounted—even switching gears for a stint as chief of detectives. 

After a game-changing rookie season as chief, Setting finds no shortage of challenges and is intent on setting new goals and changing the department’s M.O. to suit them. One crime category that didn’t knuckle under to TAPS last year was theft, with low single-digit increases in both general and vehicle-theft percentages. Setting plans to reverse that in 2014. A newly created property-crime team within the patrol has been aligned with detectives, slowing the pace of such crime so far this year. 

Also new on the organizational chart is a special section within criminal investigations—this one with no regular caseload. “They’ll go wherever detectives think they should be deployed,” says Setting.

New Castle County’s is not the only nimble, well-informed police force, nor is its use of TAPS-like methodology unique, but it has established an identity beyond the state. Last year, Setting’s team visited the Tampa (Fla.) Police Department to compare procedures, and this October, they’ll be a presence at the International Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference in Orlando. 

Back home, Wilmington’s “intelligence-led policing” has a familiar ring. “We don’t have the same technology capability [as New Castle County], but it’s the same type of strategy,” says Wilmington Chief Bobby Cummings, a 29-year veteran who’s worked closely with Setting in and around the city. “We share information, come to each other’s meetings. Why should we set boundaries? The criminals certainly don’t.”

Indeed, criminals can be a surprisingly inventive bunch, which is why Setting and his team will continue to analyze and refine their approach. With the computer’s prescience and a serious work ethic, they hope to keep the odds tilting their way.

 

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January 2017

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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Sports Card & Collectible Show at Aetna Fire Hall on Jan. 22—sign up now! -Sports Cards McFarlane Figures Comic Books Non-Sports cards Wrestling Items Vintage Starting...

Cost: $2

Where:
Aetna Fire Hall
400 Ogletown Road
Newark, DE  19711
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Sponsor: A2Z Promotions
Telephone: 302-983-2636
Contact Name: Bob Harper
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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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Belly Dance Classes with Zahra Beginner & intermediate classes open to teens and adults Sundays in January starting Jan 8th Beginner: 2:30-3:30 p.m. Intermediate: 1 - 2 p.m (must get...

Cost: $15-$42

Where:
Take the Lead Studio
320 Lantana Drive
Hockessin , DE  19711
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Sponsor: Take the Lead
Contact Name: Zahra
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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
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Ah, typecasting—the baritone is always the bad guy! In Devils, Drunks & Dastardly Dudes, we’ll go on an operatic journey of men behaving badly. We’ll add a tenor to the mix, too… but we...

Cost: $29-$59

Where:
OperaDelaware Studio
4 South Poplar St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: OperaDelaware
Telephone: 302-442-7809
Contact Name: Mary Wilcosky
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Come give curling a try! At this 2-hour intro-to-curling event we'll provide a basic lesson then coach you through a mini-game.  Whether you just want to cross #curling off your bucket list or...

Cost: $35

Where:
The Pond Ice Arena
101 John Campbell Rd
Newark, DE  19711
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Sponsor: Diamond State Curling Club
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

Notbybreadalone Ministries presents Feeding the Hungry Outreach. All are welcome to come and partake of food, fun and fellowship. Those who desire a better way of life through Jesus Christ are...

Cost: Free

Where:
2nd and 3rd Streets
Wilmington, DE  19801


Sponsor: Notbybreadalone Outreach Ministries
Telephone: 442-0440
Contact Name: Ministers Wayne and Stephanie Dumpson
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Guest speakers Patty Dailey-Lewis, executive director of the Beau Biden Foundation, and Delaware Family Court commissioner Loretta Young will discuss how participation in social media can too...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilmington University - Dover
Building A Auditorium
3282 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
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Sponsor: Wilmington University College of Social & Behavioral Sciences
Telephone: 302-295-1164
Contact Name: Dr. Johanna Bishop
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-12:00PM Fall session: Thursday, Dec 1st thru Thursday, December 15th Winter session: Tuesday, January 17th thru Thursday, March 30th   Drop in on Nature is...

Cost: see description

Where:
The Annex
501 Chandler Mill Rd
Kennett Square, PA  19348
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Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
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East Coast Garden Center Indoor Farmers Market Nov 8, 2016 - April 11, 2017  11 am- 2 pm 25 vendors Location:  East Coast Garden Center 30366 Cordrey Rd Millsboro, DE 19966 302-945-3489

Cost: frr

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd
Millsboro, DE  19966
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Sponsor: East Coast Garden Center
Telephone: 302-945-3489
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East Coast Garden Center Indoor Farmer's Marke 25 vendors

Cost: Free

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd
Millsboro, DE  19966
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Telephone: 302-945-3489
Website »

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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

A four-week series of ballroom dancing classes taught by teachers from the BlueBallroom. Tuesdays starting Jan. 10. Classes are $30 a lesson for Non-Members. Non-Member slots are limited. For...

Cost: $30

Where:
University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-12:00PM Fall session: Thursday, Dec 1st thru Thursday, December 15th Winter session: Tuesday, January 17th thru Thursday, March 30th   Drop in on Nature is...

Cost: see description

Where:
The Annex
501 Chandler Mill Rd
Kennett Square, PA  19348
View map »


Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
Website »

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Thursdays from 4:00PM-5:30PM Fall session: December 1st, 8th and 15th Winter session: Starts January 19th, every other Thursday until March 30th This program is based entirely outdoors and is...

Cost: Cost: $30 for TLC members / $40 for non-members

Where:
Bucktoe Creek Preserve
432 Sharp Rd
Avondale, PA  19311
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Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
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MARC BROUSSARD In 2004, Marc Broussard, then a precocious 22-year-old singer/songwriter, released his major-label debut; he called it Carencro, after the Louisiana town where he was born and...

Cost: $22 SRO- $32 SEATED

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 215-222-1400
Contact Name: MP Intern
Website »

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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

More information

Show More...
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Tutto Fresco has live entertainment every Friday night from 6:30–9:30 p.m. Call for details. http://tuttofrescode.com/

Where:
Tutto Fresco
514 Philadelphia Pike
Wilmington, DE  19809
View map »

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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

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Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
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Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
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Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 302-764-3396
Contact Name: Kathy Buterbaugh
Website »

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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

January 28 – Saturday – 1 to 4 p.m. Science Saturday – Truss Me, You Won’t Fall! Become an engineer for the day. Design a bridge to hold as much weight as possible....

Cost: Activities are included in regular admission and free for members.

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Hagley Museum
Telephone: (302) 65802400 x 238
Contact Name: Jessica Eisenbrey
Website »

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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

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GRILLED CHEESE AND CRAFT BEER TASTING We have taken two of the best things on earth and paired them together – Grilled Cheese and Craft Beer – and paired them together in unexpected and...

Cost: $40

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 215-222-1400
Contact Name: MP Intern
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Saturday, January 28, 2017 at  7:30 pm at St. David’s Episcopal Church, 763 Valley Forge Rd, Wayne, PA 19087 Sunday, January 29, 2017 at 3 pm at Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square...

Cost: Tickets are $25 online, and $30 at the door. Student tickets $10 at the door.

Where:
Church of the Holy Trinity
1904 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA  19103
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Sponsor: Lyric Fest
Telephone: 215-438-1702
Contact Name: Jessica Nelson
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Fan favorite, Dick Smith, returns to the Dickinson Theatre Organ Society concert stage on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 for a show that is sure to bring the house down! Dick Smith has been a...

Cost: $15 Adults; $10 Students

Where:
John Dickinson High School Auditorium
1801 Milltown Road
Wilmington, DE  19808
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Sponsor: Dickinson Theatre Organ Society
Telephone: 302-995-2603
Contact Name: Bob Dilworth
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The Dickinson Theatre Organ Society presents Dick Smith. For tickets, click here: http://www.dtoskimball.org/events-tickets/ticket-information/ For further information, please call us at...

Where:
, DE

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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

More information

Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 302-764-3396
Contact Name: Kathy Buterbaugh
Website »

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MOTHERSHIP Mothership is the area's premier Led Zeppelin Tribute show. Composed of seasoned, professional musicians Mario Padovani - vocals, keyboards, Frank Ginocchio - drums, Chris Julian -...

Cost: 15

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 215-222-1400
Website »

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