Dover Elks Lodge neighbors push for action on safety issues

DOVER — Councilman Roy Sudler Jr. and residents hope to eventually resolve safety issues regarding the Elks Lodge at 217 N. Kirkwood St.

Mr. Sudler said residents have lost confidence in the lodge to provide adequate security and safety measures for the general well-being of the neighborhood.

“We’ve held countless meetings and the residents of this community want this issue resolved,” Mr. Sudler said. “We’ve tried to reach out to the Dover Elks Lodge and they haven’t been able to come to a happy medium in regards of a soft approach to solving their concerns.”

Roy Sudler Jr.

Roy Sudler Jr.

A meeting with the Kirkwood Neighborhood Watch Executive Committee was held Wednesday morning as they discussed declaring the property a nuisance through the Delaware Criminal Nuisance Abatement Act.

That would empower the state attorney general “to eliminate locations that otherwise attract criminals, violence and the threat of violence.”

The Elks Lodge is open from 5 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on the weekends, with varying hours on weekdays.

Residents said people loiter in the parking lot behind the building once the establishment closes.

During the meeting Dover Deputy Chief Marvin Mailey cited a few incidents that occurred near the establishment.

“This year so far: In January there was a call about someone acting disorderly,” Deputy Chief Mailey said. “We responded and arrested that person, as The Elks made that call.

“In February there was a shooting on North Kirkwood Street in the area of 200 North Kirkwood and the person was arrested.

“Then in March we had an anonymous caller call in regarding a large crowd, due to the let out of the club.”

Deputy Chief Mailey said he hopes to speak with Willie Alexander, exalted ruler of the Elks Lodge, sometime next week.

“I hope to talk to him about all the complaints and the ongoing history of complaints that we received from the nightclub over the years,” Deputy Chief Mailey said. “I’m going to ask what measures they’re taking to prevent these incidents from occurring.

“I know in the past we attended meetings where we offered them extra duty and I don’t think they’ve taken advantage of that,” he added.

The Gold Club in Wilmington was closed last year, due to the Delaware Criminal Nuisance Abatement Act when the state Department of Justice declared it a criminal nuisance property. The police were called to the location nearly 240 times in the last four years.

But Deputy Attorney General A.J. Roop said based on the information that Deputy Chief Mailey provided he believes there isn’t enough information at this time to file a lawsuit against the Elks Lodge.

“At this point in time a judge is going to look at it and say you’ve had three calls these past few months and with one of the calls they called the police.

“It’s not really a strong case for us at this point,” Mr. Roop said during the meeting.

To be declared a nuisance property, there must be illegal activities occurring involving guns, drugs or gangs and a material disturbance to the nearby community.

The state has six ways to prove a property is a criminal nuisance, including illegal drug activity, illegal firearm activity, prostitution, criminal gang activity and violent felonies.

“The prior complaints about fights spilling into residents backyards, or shootings taking place on or around their properties, I hope none of that happens moving forward, but if it does people have to call in and be very specific about what they see,” Mr. Roop said.

“The more information that goes to the Dover Police Department the more information goes to the reports and that allows us to tie it to the property,” he added.

“That’s our biggest hurdle when we file these lawsuits is tying activity or people engaged in activity to the property.”

Mr. Sudler said that residents are afraid of retaliation if they report incidents to the police.

“I think some people are hesitant to contact the police because they don’t want to be singled out or viewed as the one who snitched,” Mr. Sudler said.

Mr. Roop said there needs to be a year of solid activity under the guidelines of the Delaware Criminal Nuisance Abatement Act to file a lawsuit.

“That helps to get your foot in the door,” Mr. Roop said. “So this year we need as much information as we can that will help.

“But once you get your foot in the door you can present information outside of that one year to help make your case.”

James Hosfelt, a councilman and chairman of the city’s Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee, said when the weather starts to warm up the criminal activity near the Elks Lodge will start to increase.

“We’ve heard from the residents, we’ve tried to make contact with owners and every year things are fine for a short period of time. Then it picks back up,” Mr. Hosfelt said. “We all anticipate when it warms up we will start to get more complaints.

“We may not have enough information now, but I think when it warms up we will have sufficient information to file a complaint.”

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