As shocked mourners gather at another Wilmington vigil, a small community are left wondering whether a troubling cycle of violent crime will ever end.
Amy Joyner-Francis, 16, tragically died after being attacked by two other students at Howard High School of Technology. A well-loved sophomore caught up a growing pandemic of bloodshed.
Over the last 2 years (2015–2016), Wilmington’s 72’000 residents have witnessed, on average, around 10 shootings a month and one homicide every fortnight.
These grim statistics position the City as one of the most dangerous places to live in America. A City so defined by its violence that ABC’s upcoming TV drama “Murder Town” is due to be filmed there. The murder rate is actually twice that of Philadelphia.
Crimes are almost always centred around small pockets of poverty, which are rife with gang activity. In these areas, over half the teenagers know someone that’s been shot or killed.
So it was with more than a degree of trepidation that I visited Wilmington in the Winter of 2015. The news at the time made for bleak reading with 13 shootings, 3 of them homicides, in December alone.
Just a week earlier, the rolling hills of Malvern had provided a breathtaking backdrop to hikes and scenic walks, so I expected to be more than a country-mile outside of my comfort zone.
Shock certainly arrived quickly, but not in the form you’d imagine.
Wilmington has an extraordinary blend of beauty, culture and nightlife. It’s the ultimate contradiction. Peaceful riverside walks, bustling antiques shops, and tasty waterfront dining create an invigorating environment.
Just outside of Downtown, the vast Brandywine Creek winds elegantly through one of the many state parks. Standing on the creek bridge, an impressive modern City skyline is juxtaposed against a waterway teeming with fish.
Popular with cyclists and walkers, a well worn creekside path leads you through Brandywine's charming terrain. Flanked by cherry trees, its uneven slopes dodge under bridges and navigate various monuments. The park is also home to Brandywine Zoo with its red pandas, two-toed sloths and rare Amur tiger.
The creek is a tributary for the Christina River, which sports an eclectic waterfront packed with lively restaurants and bars.
Delaware Contemporary, which houses 7 galleries, can also be explored at the waterfront. An industrial former factory where local and international artists exhibit a diverse range of artwork.
So if you consider Wilmington from a landmass point of view, 95% of the City is thriving. The other 5% desperately needs diverse opportunities, support for its teachers and love. For such a small close-knit community, I do hope this is more than achievable.
Students like Amy should have the World at their feet.