WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — It was being viewed as a tool to help Wilmington Police combat gang activity, but the ACLU of North Carolina viewed a gang ban in area parks as a potential excuse for profiling in at risk communities.
“We were concerned about the way that it was drafted because it was not really fleshed out how law enforcement was going to identify gang members,” said Sarah Preston of the ACLU of North Carolina. “We were afraid that would lead to arbitrary enforcement and perhaps racial profiling.”
Based on those concerns council members voted 7-1, with Charlie Rivenbark voting the lone no vote, to send the ordinance back to city staff so they could clarify how suspects would be identified.
“We know who many of the players are,” Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said. “We have had multiple instances where we’ve got called to locations and we’ve got there, dispersed people, and twenty minutes later we get another call that there was a shooting or multiple shootings involving those same groups of people.”
Despite council’s promise to Chief Evangelous to work quickly to give him another tool to fight crime, the ACLU says it won’t approve any of the known options.
“We haven’t seen that we were satisfied with,” Preston said. “What they need to be targeting is deterrents in young people from entering the gang in the first place. I think putting resources and efforts there is going to be much more successful ultimately than trying to discourage people from hanging out in parks.”
The revised anti-gang ordinance will be discussed again at the November 5 city council meeting.