Security cameras to be installed at Silver Lake Park

DOVER — As the Dover City Council meeting unfolded on Monday night the focus shifted.

It went from talk of closing Silver Lake Park indefinitely after the body of a Wesley College student was found near the lake last week to installing security cameras at the park and bringing awareness to suicide prevention.

Silver Lake Park will remain open for now, much to the delight of several people who attended the meeting to show their support for the park.

Last week, Councilman Roy Sudler Jr., chairman of the Dover Parks Recreational Enhancement Committee, had introduced the idea of closing the park indefinitely until safety concerns are addressed. He cited five bodies, including the Wesley student, that have been found in the area since 2010 as cause for concern.

However, several members of the community spoke during an extended hour-long Open Forum prior to the start of the council meeting inside Council Chambers at City Hall Monday, with most of them saying the park should remain open. Most say they felt safe using the park and that it offered great recreational opportunities.

“I’m glad to hear from everybody regarding the Silver Lake Park issue,” Councilman Sudler said. “That’s what it takes to have creative thinking.”

One couple submitted a 63-household petition to the city not to close the park and read a prepared statement extolling its virtues. Another reported some late night incidents, while others said they always felt safe when the park was open during regular hours.

Michael Lewis, a new member of the Silver Lake Commission, took the opportunity to speak at the meeting.

“I would hope we would make decisions based on facts and what’s actually happening and not speculation or hearsay,” said Mr. Lewis.

That speculation and hearsay was sparked by Councilman Sudler when he told the State News that he was concerned that at least some deaths at Silver Lake Park may have been racially motivated with a hate group involved.

Roy Sudler

The councilman did acknowledge that he had no proof and it was just a hunch.

“There’s been no evidence of foul play, but members of the minority community feel like they’ve been struck again,” Mr. Sudler insisted. “I’m receiving calls from constituents who are worried that our youth are being targeted.”

The unsubstantiated accusations left a bad taste in many people’s mouths, including Mayor Robin R. Christiansen.

The mayor read a statement at the outset of the city council meeting, grieving the loss of the Wesley student, but also offering support for the Dover Police Department and stressing coming together as a community.

“Our community has been unduly stressed by accusations of malice and misdeeds by hysterical innuendos and a hunch,” Mayor Christiansen said. “People playing on the fears of the uninformed and those who continually are looking for a conspiracy, and to those who would build an atmosphere of hate, mistrust and division on the heartbreak and sadness of a grieving mother. I say no, not it our town.”

Councilman Matt Lindell also made a pointed comment in Councilman Sudler’s direction.

“I had the chance to get some exercise in (Sunday) and I went running around Silver Lake and other parts of downtown Dover, as well, and I came to two conclusions: One, I’m out of shape, and two, I saw families of all races and ages all enjoying the park Sunday on a beautiful day playing, and it’s a safe park,” he said.

“We could always improve on the safety issues of the park, I just wish we would do it the right way through the committee process instead of looking for 15 seconds of fame.”

Councilman Sudler has scheduled an open meeting Thursday at City Hall from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., but has changed the primary focus of the meeting from potentially closing Silver Lake Park to bringing attention to mental health assistance issues and suicide prevention.

Councilman Anderson said that he and Mr. Sudler don’t always agree on every issue but added that he never doubts the love he has for the community.

“I am looking forward to the Suicide Prevention Awareness Forum which will be right here at City Hall that Councilman Sudler will be chairing,” said Councilman Anderson. “I am thankful that he has a real concern and heart for the people of this city. I am very disappointed that my colleague had been misinterpreted, because I have seen over the years that his concern is the truth. It is heartfelt.

“I don’t always agree with him. I don’t think we should close the park down. I agree with Councilman Lindell that it is safe, however, I would be a hypocrite if I would say that we didn’t need more monitoring after the park is closed and I’m glad (we’re) moving in that direction.”

Surveillance cameras on the way

Dover Police Chief Marvin Mailey made a surprise, impromptu announcement at the city council meeting.

He said the city is in the process of installing three surveillance cameras at Silver Lake Park and that ground was broken on the project on Monday, drawing applause from the crowd that was gathered.

“There’s been a lot of discussion as far as camera systems,” Chief Mailey said. “Part of my duty as chief of police is to ensure public safety within the city of Dover. Last year we lost one of our residents to an unfortunate death in Silver Lake and as a result there was meetings held here in this very building (City Hall) and Councilman Sudler was the head of those meetings.

“At that time, I promised I would get cameras inside of Silver Lake and we did make the request. As a result of the request I was told by the company that we were using that there was not an adequate fiber network established at that time to extend the camera systems. We have a robust camera system within the city of Dover with over 100 cameras active.”

He added, “So, based on that, we were in a hold position. We were waiting for the infrastructure to be built out enough to support this camera system. As a result of everything that’s happened, I recontacted my person at this company and I am told we will have three cameras installed at Silver Lake, one at the entrance and two within the park.”

Chief Mailey said ensuring the public’s safety is just part of his department’s job.

“I’m not the type of person to try to get on the newspaper and try to publicize what we do in public safety — that’s our job, that’s what we do. We don’t stand and grandstand for it, but we do hear your concerns. We are concerned about each and every citizen and I just wanted to pass on that information.

“That doesn’t put everybody’s fears to rest. I know there’s a lot of rhetoric going on out there and I understand that. I share your concerns, but I can assure you one thing, that we don’t allow illegal activity within this city, especially when it comes to taking people’s lives. We take that very seriously.

“We have a clearance level far and above other police departments in the United States and we have that for a reason — because we arrest people for taking people’s lives. That’s what we do, that’s our job.”

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

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