Dover Police Department dealing with settlement funds

17dsn Dover PD Foot Patrol 001 by .

Cpl. Brian Allen, left, and PFC Brian Wood walk down Loockerman Street while on foot patrol. Enhanced foot patrols are just one of several new initiatives the city will use to combat crime, thanks to an infusion of $580,000 from the state. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — What does nearly $580,000 buy when fighting crime?

Delaware’s capital city is now finding out.

Infused with extra funds via the Delaware Attorney General’s office, the Dover Police Department is further addressing an unprecedented, drug-fueled wave of violent lawbreaking that’s existed for some time now.

Worst of all, the city experienced a record seven homicides in 2015, and 19 shootings overall.

For the next year, uniformed officers on overtime will patrol Dover’s most troubled areas on foot, a large component in the plan to curb crime and build stronger relationships within the community.

In fact, nearly half the funds received from the Attorney General’s office — $275,000 — will finance police walking the beat for an extra 4,800 hours in the next 12 months. Officers will be paid an average overtime of $57.19 hourly, which includes Social Security, Medicare and Workers Compensation costs.

In November 2015, Attorney General Matt Denn and others worked with the General Assembly’s Joint Finance Committee to acquire $2 million in escrowed funds obtained from Bank of America and Citigroup to settle allegations of past financial misconduct.

The money specifically was targeted to aid law enforcement in Delaware’s two largest cities — Dover and Wilmington — fight rampant gun violence within their jurisdictions.

“The attorney general was concerned about the violent crime taking place in both cities and did not want to wait to increase police presence in the neighborhoods where crime is taking place,” Department of Justice spokesman Carl Kanefsky said.

While Wilmington officials haven’t yet accepted the money and are evaluating its future implications with the Attorney General’s office and state legislators, Dover Police already have put it to work, literally.

An email received

On Nov. 6, 2015, Dover Chief of Police Paul Bernat said he received an email from Attorney General Denn expressing intentions to seek part of the $36 million settlement negotiated by the Department of Justice for fighting crime locally.

17dsn Dover PD Foot Patrol 002 by .

Cpl. Brian Allen, right, and PFC Brian Wood keep watch on the neighborhood at the corner of Loockerman and Bradford streets during a recent foot patrol.

Joining the attorney general’s push for funds were Delaware State Chamber of Commerce Richard Heffron, and Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council Executive Director Rashmi Rangan.

“I was elated to hear the potential of receiving the much needed funding relief from the State,” Chief Bernat said.

On July 22, 2015, Chief Bernat emailed Attorney General Denn and several local politicians asking for assistance and support in receiving a Neighborhood Building Block Grant, but the request was rebuffed.

“I was later told that the funds were frozen, due to the state’s shortfall in funds,” Chief Bernat said.

Fortune later came Dover’s way, however, and Chief Bernat said plans for using the money were discussed with the Attorney General’s office before approval by the Joint Finance Committee in December.

Also joining the conversation were Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen and state Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover, a JFC member.

Dover Police Department pledged to be accountable for the money and what it is buying for the community.

“We will report statistics and plans to them throughout the time the money is being used,” Chief Bernat said.

Indeed, the Attorny General’s office worked with Dover Police to create a format for quarterly reports starting April 15 to the Delaware Department of Justice, including:

• Number of cadets participating in the cadet patrols, number of hours worked on the patrols, areas patrolled, property checks conducted or other pertinent metrics.

• Number of officers on foot patrol, hours worked on foot patrol, areas patrolled, and metrics such as arrests made and property checks performed.

• Verification and documentation of the purchase of cameras and their locations

• Details on expenditures of money for community events

• Details on expenditures of funds on the Kirkwood and Division basketball court

Curbing violent crime

Exactly $579,569 has been allocated for Dover through the Controller General’s office.

“We believe that the funds provided to the Dover Police Department will certainly help curb the violent crime and allow the police to better connect with the community,” Chief Bernat said.

Besides foot patrols, $105,569 will fund Dover Police’s cadet program from Feb. 15, 2016, until June 15, 2017. Originally, the program was slated to end less than a month from now.

An additional 14 downtown monitoring cameras are coming, along with upgrading and enhancing the current

WHERE MONEY IS GOING Here is the breakdown of how the city of Dover says it will use $579,569 received from Delaware Attorney General’s office through bank settlement funds to fight crime: • $105,569 to continue the cadet program from February 15, 2016, to June 15, 2017. The program is currently slated to end Feb. 15.  • $275,000 for overtime uniform foot patrols for one year, which will allow 4,800 hours of extra foot patrols at an average overtime rate of $57.19 (includes Social Security, Medicare and Workers Compensation) • $170,000 for 14 additional downtown monitoring cameras and upgrade and enhance the camera monitoring system. • $25,000 for building trust in the community through hosting events such as basketball tournaments and movies at Dover Police Department. This may include funds for food and music entertainment (disc jockey) and T-shirts that support the police and community. • $4,000 to fix the basketball court lights at South Kirkwood and Division streets. The lights will turn on at dusk and off at 10 p.m. The lights are currently nonfunctional.

WHERE MONEY IS GOING
Here is the breakdown of how the city of Dover says it will use $579,569 received from Delaware Attorney General’s office through bank settlement funds to fight crime:
• $105,569 to continue the cadet program from February 15, 2016, to June 15, 2017. The program is currently slated to end Feb. 15.
• $275,000 for overtime uniform foot patrols for one year, which will allow 4,800 hours of extra foot patrols at an average overtime rate of $57.19 (includes Social Security, Medicare and Workers Compensation)
• $170,000 for 14 additional downtown monitoring cameras and upgrade and enhance the camera monitoring system.
• $25,000 for building trust in the community through hosting events such as basketball tournaments and movies at Dover Police Department. This may include funds for food and music entertainment (disc jockey) and T-shirts that support the police and community.
• $4,000 to fix the basketball court lights at South Kirkwood and Division streets. The lights will turn on at dusk and off at 10 p.m. The lights are currently nonfunctional.

system for $170,000.

Dover has stressed community policing in the past, and will use $25,000 for “building trust in the community through hosting events such as basketball tournaments and movies at Dover Police Department,” Chief Bernat said.

“This may include funds for food and music entertainment (disc jockey) and T-shirts that support the police and community.”

A $4,000 fix for nonfunctional basketball court lights at South Kirkwood Street and Division Street is upcoming, and the lights will operate from dusk to 10 p.m.

“Attorney General Denn hopes the funds will reduce incidents of crime in targeted Dover neighborhoods because of the presence of cadets, uniformed officer foot patrols and cameras,” Mr. Kanefsky said.

“And he hopes that the presence of cadets and troops as well as the community building activities will build long-term relationships and trust between Dover officers and the people they serve.

“Attorney General Denn thinks the efforts that Dover Police are making to reduce crime and connect with residents are going in the right direction and should be supported.”

The crimes detailed

The situation in Dover is dire, considering there was a 13 percent increase in “Group A” violent crime from 2014 to 2015, including assault, extortion, homicide, kidnap, robbery, sexual (forced) and weapons in the category.

According to Dover Police, citywide weapons offenses rose 12 percent in the past 12 months of 2015.

The downtown area was the site for 29 percent of all Group A crime in 2015, compared to 31 percent in 2014. Similarly, 35 percent of 2015 weapons offenses occurred in downtown, 36 percent in 2014.

Dover Police reported a 56 percent increase in gun seizures in 2015 — 84, compared to 54 in 2014.

There were 19 citywide shootings in 2015, an increase of 73 percent from the 11 incidents in 2014, authorities said. A 59 percent increase in shots-fired complaints arose in 2015, with 189 incidents compared to 119 in 2014.

Chief Bernat has maintained that drugs are the main root of crime, with the heroin, crack, cocaine and marijuana trade driving up robberies, burglaries and assaults.

Attempting to foster better community relations, Dover Police said it connected with National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Central Delaware President La Mar Gunn to host a basketball event for the community, including food and a disc jockey.

Authorities listed other community outreach efforts, including:

• Partnered with Community In Schools and delivered 150 turkeys, including fixings;

• Served turkey dinners at the Holy Trinity Church gathering;

• Teaming with Target and Winner Ford, Dover Police officers were paired with 30 underprivileged children for a $175 gift card shopping trip at Target at Christmas time.

Staff-wise, 2015 was a year of transition and changes — seven officers retired, which brought 21 promotions.

Another 17 officers are eligible to retire. Six of eight staff officers are new to their positions.

City Council authorized 10 more officer positions, upping Dover Police Department’s strength to 101.

There are currently 91 officers available, with six attending the Delaware State Police Academy. Four open spots remain for the next academy training that begins March 14.

Additionally, a cadet program was added through grant funding and the Dover Public Library, with nine members taking to the streets 19 hours a week to monitor ongoing nuisance issues, along with presenting a greater law enforcement presence in the downtown area and connecting with business owners and downtown patrons.

A proactive Street Crimes Unit went into action, searching for fugitives and infractions while traveling through troubled areas.

A crime analyst was added to Dover Police Department, and an accreditation position was converted to a civilian in the budgeting.

Money is welcomed

Dover Fraternal Order of Police President Master Cpl. Gist said that while he’s happy that extra money is allocated within city limits, “with a small agency, you can put all the overtime in the world out to fight crime, but if you don’t have the police officers to fill those spots it’s wasted.

“It is nice that some money will be going into the communities.”

Statewide Delaware Fraternal Order of Police President Fred Calhoun applauded the Attorney General’s office for supporting police efforts through funding, describing it as an “acknowledgment” of the ongoing efforts and important role law enforcement plays protecting and serving communities.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Denn announced a proposed “Lifting Up Delaware’s Communities” program designed to use the remaining $29 million of bank settlement funds to assist Delaware’s most troubled, crime-ridden neighborhoods.

Investments would be made in substance-abuse treatment, prison re-entry programs, community policing and support, foreclosure prevention, home-purchase opportunities for foreclosure victims, affordable housing, support for high poverty elementary schools and after school and summer programs, the attorney general said.

“Our proposal … is that these funds be used to help lift up our state’s hardest hit communities,” Attorney General Denn said in a news release.

“That is what is called for by the settlement agreement, and speaking for a moment as an elected official whose top priority is fighting violent crime, investing in these communities is also what we should be doing if we really want to bring down the rate of violent crime.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.