Concerned that police are losing the war against drug dealers and other criminals, the Wilmington Home Owners organization is looking into hiring a private security firm to patrol the community.
At a meeting last week, members of the organization voted to contact several firms and find out how much the patrols would cost. A subcommittee is expected to report to the group at its next meeting in January.
"The police have been ineffective in completely eradicating the crime," said Abelardo de la Pena Jr., head of the subcommittee, which was formed last summer to find ways to fight the community's drug problem.
Private security "is no guarantee, and it isn't going to be a cure-all. But we have to take steps," he said.
Police Capt. Dennis Conte, commanding officer of the Harbor Division patrol division, has said that although his department is understaffed, he opposes the use of private security firms to combat drug traffic.
"They don't have any experience in dealing with these kinds of problems," he said. Police have argued that hiring additional police officers is a better way to fight crime.
In voting to look into private security firms, members of the homeowner group rejected two other suggestions: that they ask the Guardian Angels, a volunteer anti-crime group that patrols high-crime areas, to establish a local branch, and that they form a watchdog organization of residents to patrol streets.
Peter Mendoza, president of the group, said the decision to look into private security firms does not mean the group will eventually endorse hiring them. "We are just going to explore it," he said.