Silver Lake Park isn’t safe, Dover official says

DOVER — Spurred by the discovery last weekend of a deceased Wesley College student whose body was found near Silver Lake, a Dover city councilman on Tuesday called for the park’s indefinite closure until further safety measures are considered.

Councilman Roy Sudler said he believes as many as five bodies have been located in the area since 2010, and little information about the cause or manner of death is available.

The councilman said he is concerned that at least some deaths may be racially motivated with a hate group involved.

However, he acknowledges he has no proof and it’s 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.”

To better gauge the extent of community fears, Mr. Sudler schedule a community meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. on March 28 at City Hall. The councilman seeks to hear from residents and is asking them to vote “yes” or “no” on whether to close the park indefinitely.

Anyone seeking more information can call 465-6975.

Roy Sudler

Following the meeting, Mr. Sudler — chairman of the Dover Parks Recreational and Enhancement Committee — will present results to city council for consideration. The councilman said he hopes access to the park is shut down until safety concerns are addressed.

“It’s a wooded area that’s extremely dark at night,” Mr. Sudler said. “I’d like to see additional lighting and cameras and if we don’t look at adding safety measures then we aren’t doing our due diligence to further protect the community.”

Mr. Sudler said Dover Police have used grant money to install surveillance cameras in the downtown area, and suggested adding them to Silver Lake to increase oversight of the activity there.

According to city police spokesman Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman, “The department has always embraced the idea of an increase in surveillance cameras throughout the city to help solve and prevent crimes.”

If incidents are deemed suicides, Mr. Sudler said he wants to examine “[w]hat is attracting them to Silver Lake, why are they using the park to end their lives at such a young age with so much of their promising future ahead of them.

“We need to ask what we can do to deter that or can we provide resources to assist them before another tragedy occurs.”

According to Cpl. Hoffman, officers responded to the park 242 times from March 1, 2018, to Tuesday. Of those calls, 142 were for property checks and another 49 were public assists ranging from traffic control, opening or closing park gates and other attention to routine needs.

There were 20 pedestrian or vehicle stops made in the same period, along with five incidents police categorized as “suspicious events.” Two community outreach meetings also took place.

Authorities reported that a combined 18 calls involved a motor vehicle accident, animal complaints, domestic situation, drug complaint, medical emergency, loud noise/music/disturbance, resisting arrest, robbery that turned domestic related, abandoned vehicle, welfare checks and traffic hazards/service.

The park is covered through routine patrols, and officers often stop in the area while completing reports and maintaining high visibility.

“However, as with any location, out presence is not constant as we are responding to calls for service 24 hours a day, totaling over 43,000 calls in 2018 alone,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

The Wesley student whose body was located Sunday was first reported missing after leaving his dormitory on Feb. 12.

Police issued a Gold Alert “based on information they had obtained following his disappearance,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

During the investigation police were told the 21-year-old “made statements to others that are cause for concern for his health and safety, prompting the Gold Alert.”

The student, who also had a home in Wilmington, was found near the shore line of Lake Club Apartments after police received a citizen’s call,

The body was turned over to the Delaware Division of Forensic Science Medical Examiner’s Unit.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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