Rodney Village stays strong after shooting incident

Rodney Village Civic Association President Bryant Craig points to a repaired sidewalk in the neighborhood, joined by street representative David Roland, RVCA Vice President Collena Hope, and street representative Brian Richards. (Submitted photo/RVCA)

Rodney Village Civic Association President Bryant Craig points to a repaired sidewalk in the neighborhood, joined by street representative David Roland, RVCA Vice President Collena Hope, and street representative Brian Richards. (Submitted photo/RVCA)

DOVER — An Oct. 17 shooting incident leaving two people dead in a reported home invasion won’t deter the unified two-year effort to improve life in one south Dover neighborhood.

It will only strengthen the resolve, Rodney Village Civic Association President Bryant Craig said.

“It motivates everyone to be on the lookout more and make more improvements,” Mr. Craig said. “We’re urging people to keep their ears and eyes open, and call the state police when they need to.”

Rodney Village Civic Association members have banded together like never before, and are constantly looking out for all the good people who live in the home around them.

The unfortunate recent event has residents increasing efforts to monitor the comings and goings, activities and anything else happening in Rodney Village.

Shortly after the shootings, Mr. Craig began contacting RVCA members to provide as much information as possible regarding the incident, while also advising “to be more observant if you’re up” during late night and early morning hours, and call the Delaware State Police with any concerns.

Calls were coming in to Mr. Craig as well, as many residents have established a tight-knit communication network to share as much information and insight as possible regarding their neighborhood.

The night after the unfortunate incident, Mr. Craig said he called in a suspicious person complaint to state police — the person turned out to be not dangerous — and authorities arrived “within minutes.”

A unified effort

Since taking over as RVCA’s president in 2013, Mr. Craig has worked with other like-minded individuals to establish unified efforts to make their home a better, safer place to live.

“We strongly believe in a team effort,” he said.

A 31-member “Crime Watchers” group has established a communications network that quickly identifies suspicious activities and passes the word to other neighbors who can contact law enforcement resources.

When folks leave the area for an extended time, the “Know Your Neighbor Better” program  allows their neighbors to be aware of the absence and keep a lookout for their vacant homestead, ready to report concerns if need be.

“It’s a group venture,” RVCA Vice President Collena Hope said.

The results have been telling, according to Mr. Craig.

Before the recent violent situation, Mr. Craig, a 15-year Rodney Village resident, described the frequency of crime incidents as “minimal.”

That wasn’t the previously the case and crime was at times rampant, Ms. Hope remembered.

“When I first moved in eight years ago there were bad things going on,” Ms. Hope said. “What some people still say about it now — that it’s a rough place to be in — isn’t true anymore.

A summertime shooting was attributed to those passing through the neighborhood, Ms. Hope said, not daily residents. The latest event allegedly involved two Pennsylvania residents, police said.

“It’s a quiet neighborhood,” she said.

Police presence

A rolling Delaware State Police presence has been an asset when monitoring the area, Mr. Craig said.

Every summer, residents come together for a daylong cleanup event, in which the neighborhood is swept of trash that is deposited into a pair of large dumpsters provided by the Delaware Department of Transportation for disposal.

“The last time there was so much trash in a dumpster in my front yard that it was overflowing,” Ms. Hope said. “We’re trying to get the trash moved out and people now look forward to doing it.”

For the 5-year-old children to teenagers who take part, there’s some incentive — a free chilly drink treat or bowling pass are distributed to the participants.

“When things are clean people want to stay where they live,” Ms. Hope said. “It shows people we care; it’s getting better. The more we do it the more others want to get onboard with it.”

For Mr. Craig, who along with his wife have raised two children in Rodney Village, the way of life betterment is all about the kids.

“I wanted the children here to be able to feel safe walking down the street and know that someone is looking out for them,” he said.

State rep’s help

Thanks to funds procured by State Rep. Andria Bennett and her predecessor husband Brad, two speed lights were set up on each of four neighborhood thoroughfares — David Hall Road, Gunning Bedford Drive, John Clark and Nathaniel Mitchell streets.

There’s been a noticeable increase in safety as speeding has dropped, Mr. Craig said.

“We still get speeders here and there but nothing like it used to be,” he said.

Said Mr. Craig about his favorite legislator:

“She’s a workhorse. She has a genuine care for the people in the community. We need more representatives like her.”

Rep. Bennett returned the praise toward Rodney Village residents, saying, “It’s an interesting environment of people who have come together to make their community a better place to live.”

Rep. Bennett saluted Rodney Village for its mix of longtime residents and newcomers, high attendance at neighborhood meetings, and being “so interested” in asking what they can do to follow code requirements, communicate with officials and anything else needed to properly make changes for the betterment of all.

“Of all the community meetings I go to, the ones at Rodney Village are probably the most well attended,” Rep. Bennett said.

The Delaware Department of Transportation also has communicated the progress of a West Dover Connector construction project at Charles Polk Road and U.S. 13 that’s aimed at diverting drive-through traffic from Rodney Village. Over 40 residents were at a summer meeting with state representatives who provided updated information on the project, Mr. Craig said.

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