Criminal complaints down since Dover’s Fulton Market closed

The business license of downtown Dover’s Fulton Market was revoked by Dover City Planner Dave Hugg at an Aug. 10 hearing due to “nuisance concerns.” (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — When it comes to the now-shuttered Fulton Market in downtown Dover, the numbers appear to speak volumes about the impact the deli had on crime in the 300 block of Fulton Street.

Dover Police Chief Marvin Mailey presented a report to the Council Committee of the Whole’s Parks, Recreation and Community Enhancement Committee at City Hall last week regarding the market, whose business license was revoked by Dover City Planner Dave Hugg at an Aug. 10 hearing due to “nuisance concerns.”

“The business, which was investigated and subsequently closed down, was a magnet for criminal activity in the area as well as narcotics. So it did bring a lot of people to the area,” Chief Mailey said. “On its closing we saw a rapid decrease in criminal activity and associated complaints.

“It allowed us to move resources elsewhere in the city and meet other issues that we have.”

Mr. Hugg’s decision to close the Fulton Market came just a couple of weeks after police arrested four people — including Wadeea Albaadani, the market’s owner — in connection to a drug investigation at the deli on July 31.

A city of Dover health and fire inspection following the arrests also revealed several violations in the building involving things like power outlets, use of extension cords and a fire suppression system, along with a shipment of raw chicken left on the floor.

Statistics from the Dover Police Department show that since the Fulton Market has been closed, criminal activity has decreased markedly in the area.

The police department received 101 complaints from the 300 block of Fulton Street from August until November in 2017. Over the exact same time frame this year, police only received 25 complaints from the area.

Chief Mailey said he thinks Dover has adequate laws when it comes to dealing with nuisance properties.

“I think the laws that we have in place are sufficient,” he said. “I think they helped us in this particular incident as well as cooperation by the residents and people willing to report criminal activity.

“As long as people are willing to work with us, we have plenty of tools in our tool box to solve a lot of problems. I think that community outreach and cooperation go a long way to helping us achieve our goals.”

Mayor: Market could reopen

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen did forewarn the committee that the possibility the Felton Market could reopen in the future does exist.

“I would put everybody on notice that let’s not let our vigilance down,” Mayor Christiansen said. “I don’t know if you’re all aware that we’ve done a little bit of a switcheroo on the ownership there and there is the possibility that this deli may open back up.

“I would like to put those folks on notice now that we will be watching as well as the rest of the community — so get your act together.”

Diver City Councilman David Anderson said he can see positive changes taking place within the city.

“I’d like to thank the fine men and women of the Dover Police Department for the great work being done,” Councilman Anderson said. “Piece by piece, I see a lot of positive things happening in the city and I want to thank (Chief Mailey) on behalf of each of them.”

Dover City Councilman Matt Lindell also commended the work the police department has done but did have one question for Chief Mailey.

“We’ve seen the success (downtown), but as far as the other districts across the city as well, I know we’ve had an uptick in the First District in break-ins and so forth,” Councilman Lindell asked. “Are we looking at redistributing some of those resources on the outskirts of the city as well?”

Chief Mailey responded, “Yes. We constantly look at our criminal statistics and tailor our enforcement efforts to whatever crime trend is emerging in the city. So we’re constantly re-evaluating our game plan and moving people about.”

Nuisance properties in Dover

The Fulton Market became the second property in downtown Dover to be stripped of its business license in recent years, joining the Dover Elks Lodge No. 1125 at 217 N. Kirkwood St., as a “nuisance property.”

The Pride of Dover Elks Lodge was shut down in early January 2017 by city and state officials due to “nonconforming use.”

Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman, spokesman for the Dover Police Department, said police had been observing the Fulton Market during a probe into the possible sale of drugs at the establishment prior to the arrests there last summer.

“It was a constant source of calls for our area, not necessarily just for the deli, but the area around it was a popular spot to loiter at and there have been issues with criminal activity there,” Master Cpl. Hoffman said. “We were monitoring (the market) and it was an area that we frequently patrol just for known issues.”

Mr. Hugg said he had several reasons for his decision to label the Fulton Deli a “nuisance property”.

“The basis for my decision was based on the sale of illegal drugs combined with various building and safety violations that city staff found at the market,” Mr. Hugg said. “Based on the evidence presented, I felt it was a public nuisance.

Mr. Hugg said he could have ordered a probationary action against Mr. Albaadani but decided to shut the business down completely due to its history as a nuisance property.

“The second and more serious of the determinations is when activities rise to the level of a public nuisance,” Mr. Hugg said. “When it reaches a point to where there is an imminent threat to public safety and welfare, we need to take action.

“Basically, that’s what I did.”

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