Crime fears spark call for more police

DOVER — Residents would like more patrols rolling through the neighborhood.
Delaware State Police are all for it.

The reality is, however, that funding limits what everyone wants and added law enforcement comes through higher taxes, officials say.

On Thursday night Kent County area residents expressed themselves to troopers, who acknowledged well-founded concerns and budget realities and shared safety tips and urged attendees to share information about all incidents, even minor ones.

After receiving an increasing number of calls from affected residents the past six weeks, State Rep. Andria L. Bennett organized the community meeting with DSP at Troop 3.

About 50 south Dover/Magnolia area residents sat in for about 90 minutes. Rep. Bennett noted that others from her representative district who were interested may have been at conflicting meetings: Nearby Postlethwait Middle School was hosting students for back-to-school night and DE Turf hosted a forum at Polytech High.

“When you can bring a roomful of people together to share ideas it’s a benefit to everyone there,” she said. “I know many more were interested and wanted to attend but were tied up elsewhere.

“I think those who did make it left in a better way then when they arrived. The results were positive, the people were heard, they were able to voice their concerns and receive information.”

After an opening DSP presentation, Kim Petters recounted her family’s recent home burglary with her family inside.
“It’s a step in the right direction but I would love to see our police have more resources to patrol our neighborhoods,” Ms. Petters said, of the meeting.

“We still have people with bad intentions roaming the neighborhoods while we sleep in our homes.”
Rep. Bennett was encouraged by local clearance rates for crimes well above national averages, but maintained that’s no solace for the victimized.

“When someone’s coming into your garage and committing a crime those (clearance) numbers don’t really matter,” she said.
According to DSP in a statement, “The feedback was very positive and the residents expressed their concerns for safety in their communities and ways they can assist DSP.”

Citizens provide details
DSP Criminal Investigations Unit commander Lt. Gerald Windish (joined by Cpl./2 Heather Pepper of Community Outreach) urged citizens to provide details on all incidents as investigators accumulate data to establish trends and probabilities, and can respond to collect evidence.

The lieutenant said he enjoys following clues in the chase to solve cases and welcomed calls for help.
“It’s what I do,” he said.

Terry Vanderschel said she’d previously experienced a potential home break-in but never called because a suspect couldn’t be verified. She’d call it in the next time.
“I realized it could help the next guy who might be involved in an incident,” Ms. Vanderschel said.

About 50 residents attended the forum.

Kent County’s only troop handles the most complaints of any in Delaware per officer. When troopers arrive for 12-hour shifts, they immediately receive a list of matters to address.

According to DSP, the number of thefts within Troop 3 boundaries has been decreasing since 2013 and over the past six years have been down over 50 percent.
While thefts so far this year have increased compared to 2018, they are still significantly low compared to years past, authorities said.

Pickering Point Homeowners Association President Frank Taormina, a former New York City police officer, said he’d take information gained from the meeting to his neighbors.
“I understand why some are very concerned but overall this is a very low crime area,” he said.
“This is a good way to raise people’s awareness level and suggest ways they can increase safety by locking their car, not leaving their keys inside or valuables visible, things like that.

“If you look at these cops they are hyper-vigilant at all times whether on duty or not.
“I don’t want citizens to feel like they should constantly be looking around for dangerous signs, but they should be able to notice strange persons coming down the block and pay attention.”

Magnolia’s Maureen Welsh said she’s experienced three incidents in 33 years.

She tried to handle the first issue without police help and it didn’t go well. DSP was contacted the next two times with successful resolutions following.

“Call these people. Let them do their job, they’re good at what they do,” said Ms. Welsh, applauding a six-minute response time from troopers.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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