Restoring Central Dover puts downtown in the spotlight

 

Ven Bundick, 7, gets help slam dunking the ball from Steve Poole with the Green Beret Program during Restore Central Dover event on Kirkwood Street in Dover on Tuesday.( Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

NCALL and its Restoring Central Dover initiative is counting on those very concepts as it kicked off its “Lights-On Dover-Strong” campaign with a community event on South Kirkwood Street Tuesday night.

Chanda Jackson, a community engagement specialist with NCALL, said Restoring Central Dover is working on ways to promote unity, decrease crime and improve communication between the police and the community with its new “illuminate downtown” program.

“With the ‘Lights-On Dover-Strong’ campaign, residents will pledge to take action to keep their neighborhood safe by reporting any suspicious or criminal activity to the Dover Police Department and will ask their neighbors to keep their porch lights on,” Ms. Jackson said.

She added that calls to Dover police may be made anonymously, lessening worries about any possible repercussions from reporting a crime.

The “Lights-On Dover-Strong” plan is to provide citizens with dusk-to-dawn LED lights for their front porches, as well as solar-powered LED flood lights for their backyards, in hopes of chasing away crime from targeted troubled areas in downtown Dover.

David Clendaniel, chairman of the safety work group for Restoring Central Dover, hopes that distributing the lights provides an opportunity to meet with community members and helps them take back their neighborhoods from crime.

“Restoring Central Dover is born out of concerns for downtown safety, not only for residents but also for businesses and economic development,” Mr. Clendaniel said. “Safety is a concern for all citizens and all businesses and we really have made a lot of improvements in downtown Dover.

“We want to make sure we have lights on the houses so that it deters crime and people can see more what’s happening around them and feel safe.”

Dover City Councilman Fred Neil said “Bravo!” when he heard about the plan to illuminate areas downtown.

“I don’t think there’s any question about lighting being a key to crime prevention and to be able to see what’s happening out there,” Mr. Neil said. “I don’t think there’s any question about the fact that the more lighting you have, the brighter it is, that it’s tougher for the criminals to hide.”

Kids pose for a photo during Restore Central Dover event on Kirkwood Street in Dover on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Mr. Clendaniel said a National Institute of Justice study conducted in 2008 showed that improved lighting in an area decreases crime by 21 percent.

He added the target area includes homes from State Street over to West Street, including a large portion of downtown.

Mr. Clendaniel said the “Lights-On” campaign will be distributing lights to around 200 households to be installed in their front porch lighting fixtures.

The LED bulbs will feature a built-in sensor that can detect changes in light and will automatically switch on as dusk approaches and will turn off at dawn.

The backyard LED flood lights will feature motion detectors and are solar-powered, so there won’t be any additional costs to the homeowner’s electric bill.

NCALL’s Restoring Central Dover group is working on the project in partnership with the Dover city council, Dover Police Department, Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility, The Home Depot, Help Initiative Inc. and Delaware State University.

Mr. Clendaniel said it will be up to the community if the program is to be successful.

“We hope to engage the citizens of Dover to help enhance the city lighting,” he said. “There’s already good city lighting on the streets, but we want to do more in the front of the houses and the rear of the houses, as well.

“We want to engage with the residents. We want them to report crimes when they see it and the real goal is we want crime to be not an attractive thing or an easy thing to commit in Dover.”

While the light bulbs will be provided free of charge, Restoring Central Dover will be asking residents to sign a pledge.

“As we pass out these light bulbs we’re going to go to the houses in the target area and give them a light bulb for their porch,” Mr. Clendaniel said. “In order to get a free light bulb, we’re going to ask residents to sign a pledge — one is to keep the lights on and two is to report crime when they see it.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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