Officials: Dover crime up, but ‘clearance’ rates among highest in nation

DOVER — Assault, robbery, burglary, motor vehicle theft and fraud.

Criminal mischief, sex, drug and weapon offenses.

City police handled 4,561 more complaints last year than in 2015, many of them violent.

That’s an 11.6 percent increase in calls, partially fueled by proactive policing seeking out criminals.

With all the investigations, though, officers can’t aggressively chase other problems.

Marvin Mailey

“The increase in complaints means our officers have less time to police their neighborhoods in a proactive manner in an attempt to deter crime and connect with the citizens of Dover,” said Deputy Chief Maj. Marvin Mailey, Dover PD’s highest ranking officer overseeing daily operations since January as the search for a permanent police chief continues.

Dover Police presented a 65-page annual report to city council this week covering a myriad of crime statistics, personnel and unit outlines and initiatives.

Describing the report as “just a broad overview for city council,” Councilman Brian Lewis said “I cannot make an assessment at this time. National numbers are great but I think we should compare ourselves to other Delaware cities and towns such as Wilmington, Milford and others.”

Echoing the analysis was Councilman Fred Neil, who hoped to learn how Dover’s case solving percentages fare versus Newark or Middletown.

“Still, the clearance rate is very good,” he said.

Acknowledging Deputy Chief Mailey, Council President Tim Slavin described the report as “on point and useful.”

“I saw a clear correlation between the taxpayer support of our police force and the results they are generating,” Mr. Slavin said. “Our clearance rates, in some cases, are four times that of the national average.”

Increasing numbers of burglaries, rapes and robberies drew Councilman Roy Sudler Jr.’s attention, and he asked for a plan to thwart them.

“What I would like to see included in the annual police report is a comprehensive plan with unique achievable goals for combating crime pursuant to each districts needs,” he said.

Digesting the report, Mr. Sudler “noticed there is not one African, Hispanic, Native or Asian American female on the force and that’s alarming. I would like to know more about our recruitment process and if ther e have been any recent female applicants that have applied to be on the Dover Police force within the last two years.

“Also, we need to do away with identifying one’s ethnicity/race by a color, that’s just simply wrong and unprofessional, for it’s just another tool to promote division during a time when we need to be united.”

Covering the city

Officers can’t be everywhere, but authorities believe some citizens have been effective allies.

“We have always received citizen support in reference to reporting crimes,” Maj. Mailey said.

“It may not show up in stats, but the citizens in the City of Dover are very engaged and make us aware of any situation that require police intervention.”

The agency swore in nine new officers in 2016, and added five civilian staffers.

With 101 sworn officers, Dover PD was fully staffed. The 31 civilian positions was one short of maximum.

Every one of them was essential to protecting and serving the city of roughly 37,000, along with daily commuters to Delaware’s capital city for work, events, shopping, touring and more, officials say.

“Having a police presence in the neighborhoods is a proven deterrent to crime; that is why we always strive to be fully staffed,” Maj. Mailey said.

A nine-member cadet program funded by multiple grant sources handled 850 complaints, issued 475 city ordinance violations and made 1,544, providing what the deputy chief described a uniformed “force multiplier.”

Cadet/patrolman Thomas Rivera saved a man’s life with the Heimlich maneuver while on duty at the Dover Public Library.

“It provides a uniformed presence when police officers are not in the area, and they have assisted in investigations by making observation /providing assistance and even saving lives,” Maj. Mailey said.

With funding for the cadet program running out, Mr. Neil questioned the future of foot patrols and what becomes of the personnel involved.
“It seems to be a great intern program worthy of keeping,” Mr. Neil said. These kids put their lives on the line for us.”

Criminal homicides dropped from seven to three the past two years “because we took a large amount of guns off the street,” Maj. Mailey said.

Violent crimes have continued to increase slightly each year since 2014, which the deputy chief said “is a concern for us, but our clearance rates remain amongst the highest in the nation.

“Our officers do an excellent job at solving these cases and getting the suspects and weapons off the streets.”

Clearance rates for burglary and robbery were well above national average, Dover PD said, and “phenomenal” according to the administration.

“We have some of the best and brightest young detectives and officers in the state,” Maj. Mailey said.

“They work very hard to develop quality criminal cases and make arrests to make our city safer.”

Large scale security

Perhaps overlooked are the agency’s 12,515 hours officers worked for extra duty, providing added public safety for Dover Downs, Dover International Speedway’s NASCAR races, Firefly music festival, college homecoming activities, parades and other special events.

“These hours are outside of these officers normal work week,” Maj. Mailey said.

“That is simply outstanding, I don’t know of very many organization that give so much of their free time in pursuit of public safety.”

The widespread heroin epidemic spurred the city to a five-year high of drug offenses, along with aggressive investigations and patrols.

“The reason is because the drug is the most mentally and physically addicting drug that there is,” Maj. Mailey maintained.

“Our enforcement techniques change constantly to meet the various usage and delivery methods.

“We see people from all walks of life with heroin addiction issues. Heroin does not seem to be a problem within specific groups of our society, but is widespread across age, race, and socioeconomic status.”

The familiar proactive policing them explained a skyrocketing number of cases for the Drugs, Vice and Organized Crime unit.

“They work extremely hard to identify drug suppliers and arrest them,” according to Maj. Mailey. “We also have a strong partnership with Delaware Probation and Parole which helps to identify offenders and use different strategies to address issues in the city.”

While there’s a concerted effort to connect with the younger generation through programs and presence, juvenile assaults and non-aggravated harassment and intimidations increased significantly, according to the report. There were no juvenile robbery arrests in 2015, but 13 in 2016.

“It’s difficult to pinpoint the reason for this, but the department has been taking steps to connect with the youth in our community with various outreach events such as our developing Police Athletic League, Green Beret/Fort A.B.L.E. project, increasing the presence of School Resource Officers in various schools, partnerships with local organizations-including faith based organizations, and events in our community,” Maj. Mailey said.

A youth academy is planned this summer, and PAL activities are planned throughout the year.

“It is always concerning when young people are involved in serious crimes and we are always looking for new ways to connect with them in addition to the steps we are taking already,” Maj. Mailey said.

City leaders have initiated the Police Athletic League and outreach events to develop “community trust and inner action between our citizens and law enforcement.” according Mayor Robin R. Christiansen, who oversees the police department and heads a committee tasked with identifying a new chief.

“This renewed trust and partnership results in more people calling the department when needed and cooperating when asked to identify lawbreakers.”

Curbing distracted drivers

A fully staffed motorcycle unit, for the first time in several years, pushed traffic arrests up from 13,878 to 16,890 in a year.

“This helped us focus more on distracted driving and other initiatives to increase traffic safety,” Maj. Mailey said.

Electronic device-holding drivers continue to be a menace on the road, and DUI, speeding, use of cell phone and equipment traffic violations rose drastically.
“People are spending too much time on their electronic devices and are simply are not exercising patience behind the wheel,” Maj. Mailey said.

“This is a problem across the country, not just in Dover. We have taken a proactive approach to this by increasing our focus on these types of violations in order to educate the public and gain compliance in order to keep our roadways safe.”

Vehicle equipment violations doubled, covering violations such as broken windows/windshields, tags not displayed, headlights/tail lights not working, and more.
Rising parking violations and false alarms were the highest ticketed city ordinances, the report showed.

A Police Prosecution Project operated by sending a few officers to process traffic offenses at Justice of the Peace Court instead of officers addressing each individual case.

“This means less cases go to trial, and more officers are on the streets,” Maj. Mailey said.

According to statistical review, officers spent approximately double the time spent processing and arraigning suspects, completing paperwork/reports, logging evidence, working lengthy investigations, interviews with witnesses/suspects, etc.

“There is no specific reason for the increase in time, other than that,” Maj. Mailey said.

Increased crime hot spots neighborhood complaints tripled the amount of property checks when “an officer will spend an amount of time in this area to make a physical check on a residence or simply patrol that area on foot or by vehicle to prevent crime or enforce city ordinances/laws,” Maj. Mailey said.

Some calls proved unfounded, and no-report incidents were up 3,000.

“That indicates that we responded to a call for assistance and through investigation we determined that no crime was committed, but there is a write off completed by the officer indicating what actions he /she took,” Maj. Mailey said.

Grant funding rose when Dover PD received $579,569 due to bank settlement funds the State of Delaware secured. Overall, the agency received $1,008,655.50 in grant money.

“The Police Administrator writes our grants and continually seeks opportunities for the agency to improve through grant funding,” Maj. Mailey said.

“There is always an emphasis in seeking grants to purchase, equipment, train officers and funding for crime prevention patrols.”

An unusually large 2.5 pound seizure of heroin in 2015, skewed the decrease of drug seizures last year, police said. Arrest totals are up, and heroin is typically sold in small amounts.

With four K9 teams in 2016, up from three the year before, unit deployments doubled. One unit stayed busy working with the proactive Street Crimes Unit on the hunt for suspicious activity and wanted suspects. Also, outside agencies called Dover PD for tracking suspects or sniffing for drugs “fairly often.”

“The K9 teams are a tremendous tool in law enforcement in tracking suspects, apprehending suspects and locating narcotics,” Maj. Mailey said.

Councilman Bill Hare applauded the investigation closure rate, but lamented the overall increase in crimes afflicting society nationwide.

“Our police department is way ahead of the national (closure rate) average and that it because of the dedicated individuals in our police department,” Mr. Hare said.

“It is a job that is tough and takes a lot of commitment and our officers have that commitment. They put their lives on the line daily to protect the citizens of Dover and I for one am very grateful and just like the volunteer fireman and our military, cannot thank them enough for what they do.”

Solving issues together

Mr. Sudler believes inclusion of community leaders, interfaith communities, the mayor and council in taking on the task of fighting crime will lower crime numbers.

Referencing Maj. Mailey, Mr. Sudler said he “continues to boost the morale of the Dover Police Department,” which will not only, “impact the war on crime in Dover but will improve the relationship between the community and police.”

Referencing his optimism “when it comes to the Dover Police Department,” Councilman Scott Cole pointed to the city’s closing rate on cases compared to national averages.

Mr. Cole described Maj. Mailey and Capt. Dave Spicer as “excellent leaders and great people …

“Neighborhood safety is all concern for all citizens and we are lucky to have great leadership and individuals on the force.”

The often-discussed heroin epidemic was also noted by Mr. Slavin, which he said continue to plague the city with crimes.

“I believe that most of our violent and gun-related crimes are related to the traffic in heroin that we are seeing across all communities in Delaware,” he said.

“We need help on this issue from all fronts – public safety, medical treatments, and social services – and this is not unique to Dover.

“As a society, we have to solve this problem.”

The ongoing drug trade scourge and associated firearm crimes has been confronted by Dover PD’s special units and programs, said Mayor Robin R. Christiansen, who oversees the city law enforcement agency and will have final say on which police chief candidate to bring before city council for approval.

“With the advent of special units and programs we are engaging one of the major issues not just peculiar to Dover, but across the country – drugs and guns, he said.

“We do an outstanding job addressing this most serious situation. Through special units we continue the daily battle to take these items off the street and out of our neighborhoods.”

The greatest concern in Dover’s drug epidemic, Councilman James Hutchison said, which is a constant in other communities as well. The former police chief and mayor who will retire from council in May believes that police relations with the public must continue to be strengthened.

“You can’t beat this with just policemen,” he said. “It’s going to take a community. We’re moving forward and the police department is doing the right things.

“I would put our PD up against any other PD anywhere when it comes to the fine job it is doing to protect and serve our community.”

Unity continues to progress and Mr. Christiansen maintains “many of our citizens now regard the Dover Police Department not as my department, not as their department, but as our department protecting and serving all of our citizens.

“I commend the men and women of the Dover Police Department for making Dover a safe community and the place we all call home.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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