Dover residents seek help to quell gang activity

DOVER –– As gang activity in Dover continues to increase, members of the community have decided to fight back through cooperation with local police, public servants and fellow residents.

These concerned Dover residents gathered at City Hall for a town hall meeting Wednesday night to discuss the state of gang activity in Dover.

The meeting, called by Dover City Councilman Roy Sudler, Jr., opened with a focus on city council resolution 2013-22 which was passed on Sept. 9, 2013, in response to an increase in local violence, especially shootings.

“It was brought forth and sparked a movement against gang activity in Dover and surrounding areas,” Mr. Sudler said to the standing-room only crowd at City Hall.

Councilman Roy Sudler Jr.

Roy Sudler Jr.

But despite improvements, gang activity has yet to cease in the City of Dover and the evidence is obvious to both law enforcement and civilians alike.

Cell phone footage of the response to a gang-related shooting on Reed Street was shown to set the tone of what Dover residents face. The video featured a young man on the ground after being shot, attended to by paramedics while family and friends watched in distress.

Unfortunately, scenes like the one in the video aren’t unheard of within city limits.

M/Cpl. Mark Hoffman, public information officer for the Dover Police Department said that the department has indeed seen gang activity in Dover.

“We typically see issues arise in large fights/violent crimes such as shootings, and in the illegal drug trade. It’s not an everyday issue but it is not a rarity either,” he said.

The Dover PD’s Gang Intelligence Unit reported Wednesday night that five different gangs have been identified in Dover over the past five years.

In 2016, four separate gangs have been reported to the police including 48, the Bloods, Three Block and the West Side Gang.

Residents of downtown neighborhoods like those on Cecil and Kirkwood streets, although they hadn’t actually seen shootings, have found gun casings in their yards and even had bullets hit their homes.

Residents were concerned about response times by local police because individuals discharging firearms may be related to gangs and aren’t being caught.

And those caught in gang-related violence aren’t only adults. Juveniles have also been found out as gang members and gang-related juvenile arrests have risen 9 percent so far this year compared to statistics from 2015.

Gang intelligence officers explained that children usually coming from single-parent or no-parent homes are being either recruited or victimized, leading them to gang life either way.

“What we need is reclamation,” said former city council member Cecil Wilson. “We need to get these kids back in schools, back to their families and back to a positive community.”

Last year, Dover secured $580,000 from the state to address safety concerns and the funding is being funneled into enhancing community policing, foot patrol, adding cameras downtown, improving the cadet program and supporting community outreach programs, all of which have the potential to reduce gang activity.

“We are trying to be a proactive rather than reactive police force,” Mayor Robin Christiansen said. “That’s what we’re putting our money and resources toward.”

Gang activity isn’t only seen by the gang members themselves and the violence they create but by the damage they leave behind, notably graffiti featuring gang symbols.

Graffiti in recent years has not only defaced private property, but public, City of Dover property too. Mr. Sudler used the example of pavers which were placed near Capital Green and defaced only weeks later.

“When things like this are destroyed who do you think pays for the cleaning or replacement?” Mr. Sudler asked the audience. “We do. The taxpayers of Dover foot the bill.”

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