Attorney General and Community Leaders Call on Legislators to Release Funds to Combat Surging Gun Violence

Date Posted: Friday, November 6th, 2015
Categories:  Department of Justice DOJ Press Releases

Attorney General Matthew Denn, joined by leaders of Delaware’s business and community reinvestment communities, called on the General Assembly’s Joint Finance Committee to hold a special meeting this month to allocate $2 million in escrowed funds to help the cities of Wilmington and Dover pay for law enforcement resources to address a surge in gun violence.

Attorney General Denn, Delaware State Chamber of Commerce President Richard Heffron, and Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council Executive Director Rashmi Rangan noted, in making their request, that violent gun crime in Wilmington and Dover is “killing and wounding residents (including in some cases children), creating chaotic living situations for those trapped in violent neighborhoods, and threatening the economic vitality of both the state’s capital and its largest city.”

The escrowed funds are part of $36 million in settlements negotiated by the Delaware Department of Justice with Bank of America and Citigroup for misconduct committed in the national financial markets by those banks.   Funds from a similar settlement with JP Morgan Chase were used from March 8th through July 17th of this year to pay overtime salaries to Wilmington Police Department officers to conduct foot patrols in high-crime areas of the city from 6 pm to 1 am, seven nights a week.  In tandem with expanded patrol efforts made by the Wilmington Police Department, these efforts had a demonstrable positive impact on public safety: the rate of homicides in the City of Wilmington dropped by two thirds during the time period that these expanded patrols were occurring.

The letter emphasized to JFC members the importance of holding a meeting now, rather than waiting for the legislature to return in January.  “[T]he residents of parts of Dover and Wilmington are living under siege, and we do not have the luxury of waiting for weeks or months to put the law enforcement presence on the street necessary to secure their safety.”

In making their request for prompt approval of the $2 million, the authors of the letter reiterated their previously-stated position that all of the $30 million in settlement funds should be used to support economically-impacted communities, rather than to temporarily plug holes in the general fund budget.  “We have strong opinions about the importance of the General Assembly spending all of the remaining $30 million in settlement funds on specified projects for low-income communities rather than simply folding them into the general fund,” the letter states, “and we will reiterate those opinions at the appropriate time.  For now, though, our request is that the Joint Finance Committee agree to the use of a small fraction of those funds to allow us to secure the streets of Dover and Wilmington.”

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