Dover gang bust: 55 arrested in two-month operation

Marvin Mailey

DOVER — A nearly two-month operation recently brought 55 gang-related arrests in the Dover area, authorities announced Thursday.

Teaming with state and federal law enforcement agencies, Dover Police said an aggressive campaign to quell a rash of shootings concluded on Sept. 30 after seven weeks.

Authorities identified two criminal organizations – “WSG (West Side Gang)” and “48 Gang” – operating in the city and largely responsible for 30 shootings in the first six months of 2017.

Police said investigation and proactive patrol efforts brought the identification of 101 suspected gang members in the area, including 51 in the “48 gang” and 39 involved with the “WSG.”

Ten search warrants were executed throughout the city, with 17 firearms, 2,594 bags of heroin, 16 grams of crack cocaine, 442.8 grams of marijuana and 56 MDMA pills recovered. One firearm was connected to two shootings occurring in July, police said.

While gang activity continues in the area, city police said the organizations have clearly been weakened for now.

“We can’t necessarily say that these gangs have been broken up or incapacitated,” Police Chief Marvin Mailey said.

“However, we have put a significant dent in their strength. This is a problem that is going to require continuous effort and focus. It is not going to disappear with a single operation.”

Gangs were operating throughout various locations in the city, but the large majority in the downtown area, police said.

The ultimate goal is to make gang activity’s impact on the community “minimal or non-existent,” Chief Mailey said.

“While this operation has ended, it does not mean our efforts have,” he said.

The operation has affected Dover’s crime rate, according to authorities.

“We are beginning to see some positive changes as a result of this operation and our continued proactive approach to addressing high crime areas in the city, including a reduction in shootings since May,” Chief Mailey said.

Dover Police spokesman Master Cpl. Mark Hoffman described the initiative as “one of the largest operations in regards to arrests, persons involved, and items seized in our agencies history.”

Specific information on arrestees was not available due to Delaware Code prohibiting public release after five days of charges filed. Police described those arrested as men and women mostly from Dover and surrounding areas.

Police would not comment on whether the two gangs noted were at odds with each other in any way.

Community assistance

Mayor Robin R. Christiansen, who oversees police operations under the direction of Chief Mailey, said community engagement helped officers identify alleged gangsters and provided information on their suspected activities.

“Our Community Policing Unit has been able to establish good relationships with residents, and the old adage of ‘If you see something, say something’ is alive in Dover today,” Mr. Christiansen said.

In the midst of a violent gunfire spree, the mayor and police chief publicly announced expanded efforts to stem the activity on May 26. The city was on a pace to far surpass the 40 shootings reported in 2016, authorities said, and most of it was related to drug activity.

While there had been 23 shootings by late May’s announcement, another seven incidents took place in June.

Further examination of the shootings found that gang-related activity had sparked the spike in firearm offenses. A gang initiative task force was formed, and included the Delaware State Police, Department of Correction and the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives office in Baltimore.

“During this time period, officers utilized special investigative techniques, surveillance, proactive patrols of known gang areas, and partnerships with other agencies such as Youth Probation to identify and investigate gang activities,” according to a Dover Police news release.

Eventually, “28 persons were officially validated as gang members,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

Of those arrested on 269 criminal charges 31 of 55 were known or suspected gang members, police said.

At least three of the following factors must be present to be classified as a gang member, according to authorities:

• Admits to gang leadership

• Is identified as a gang member by a parent or guardian

• Is identified as a gang member by one or more gang members

• Is identified as a gang member by a documented reliable informant

• Frequents a particular gang’s area

• Is identified as a gang member by an informant of previously untested reliability and such identification is corroborated by independent information

• Has been arrested more than once in the company of identified gang members

• Is identified as a gang member by physical evidence such as photographs or other documentation

• Had been stopped in the company of known gang members two or more times

• Is tattooed with gang logo and//or clothing which bears gang identification or is found with any gang paraphernalia

Other agencies involved

In a statement that thanked assisting law enforcement agencies and noted the dangerous nature of the operation, Chief Mailey said,

“The mission of this initiative was to identify, investigate, and target gang members in and around the City of Dover with a specific focus on the 48 and West Side Gangs that have affected our communities with their involvement in drugs and violent activity.

“While successful, this collaborative effort was just the beginning of our mission to stop violence in our city.”

In the news release, Delaware State Police Capt. Joshua Bushweller said, “The Delaware State Police appreciate the strong partnership we have with the Dover Police Department and thank them for the opportunity to work collectively attacking gang related and violent crime in and around the Dover area.

“We share in the success of the great work done by the Task Force and will continue to collaborate together on making all of our communities safer.”
Also providing comment was Daniel Board, ATF Special Agent in charge of the Baltimore field division.

“In Delaware and throughout this great country, the men and women of ATF have no higher priority than to address organizational based – firearm related violent crime,” he said.

“Of equal importance is the partnership we have and will continue to build with all our law enforcement partners.

“Together, with these collaborations, we will relentlessly continue to take back the streets and communities we all serve and protect – one block at a time.”

The delayed announcement of all the arrests was designed to assist and preserve the ongoing operation, Cpl. Hoffman said.

“Officers were using the intelligence they gathered during this operation to pursue other gang members, obtain evidence in other crimes/shootings that were committed, drug investigations, etc.,” he said.

“Releasing this information right away would have hindered those efforts.”

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