Dover’s Street Crimes Unit off to fast start

DOVER — The recently reactivated Dover Police Department Street Crimes Unit immediately impacted the city’s illegal drug trade Tuesday by making a combined five arrests in two separate cases, authorities said.

Unit members teamed with Delaware Probation and Parole officers in taking three men wanted on active arrest warrants during the first shift, according to spokesman Cpl. Mark Hoffman, along with locating heroin and crack cocaine.

“Most crime, especially violent crime can be traced back to the illegal drug trade in some way, so yes this is a key factor,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

Dover Police brought the Street Crimes Unit back to combat a rising level of drug- and firearms-related city violence that Lt. Jason Pires described as “unprecedented” in the city’s history. A Monday shooting was Dover’s sixth in 23 days, including three homicides.

Thus came the four-officer unit, which will be assisted by probation and parole officers. Two other officers will be available at times through grant money.

“It’s a great start, but there’s a lot of work to be done,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

The Street Crimes Unit officially was formed on Monday, but Tuesday was the first day of active duty. The officers will typically work in teams.

The first arrests came at 2 p.m. in a Courtside Apartments parking lot on United Way when a man known to be wanted by the Delaware State Police on multiple warrants was seen inside a vehicle, police said.

Police said the vehicle’s occupants were contacted, and officers allegedly saw drug paraphernalia in plain view. That led to a search that allegedly located .6 grams of heroin and multiple paraphernalia items, Cpl. Hoffman said.

Clockwise from upper left, Heather Ridgeway, Jacob Leite, Samantha Schock and Matthew Wright were all arrested on heroin-related charges after a traffic stop on Tuesday. (Submitted photos/Dover Police Department)

Clockwise from upper left, Heather Ridgeway, Jacob Leite, Samantha Schock and Matthew Wright were all arrested on heroin-related charges after a traffic stop on Tuesday. (Submitted photos/Dover Police Department)

Jacob Leite, 31, was known to be wanted, police said. Also arrested was vehicle driver Matthew Wright, 25, sought by state police.

Samantha Schock, 24, and Heather Ridgeway, 33, also were taken into custody.

Charges against the foursome included possession of controlled substance with aggravating factor possession of drug paraphernalia, and third-degree conspiracy. Bond information was unavailable.

All the arrestees were listed as homeless in a Dover Police news release, indicating no fixed address, authorities said.

Just over 30 minutes later, a wanted 25-year-old Dover man was arrested on crack cocaine-related charges after a traffic stop in the area of South State Street and Wyoming Avenue.

Robert Young allegedly first gave officers a false name, and it was found that he was lying, police said. He was then taken into custody. Police did not immediately disclose what prompted the traffic stop at 2:39 p.m.

Mr. Young, listed as homeless in Dover, was searched, and police said 1.6 grams of crack cocaine allegedly was located.

Robert Young

Robert Young

Further investigation found that Mr. Young had active warrants from the state and Frederica police, and a warrant out of Pennsylvania, authorities said.

Charges against Mr. Young included out of state fugitive, possession of crack cocaine, possession of drug paraphernalia, and criminal impersonation.

Mr. Young was held at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna in lieu of $9,266 secured bond.

There’s been a good response by the public so far, police said.

“We have had a lot of positive feedback from citizens, especially through our website and social media outlets,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

Police Chief Paul Bernat said on Monday that a zero tolerance policy on violations was aimed at slowing if not stopping drug, shooting and homicide issues.

“Increasing our presence in various communities and cracking down on all criminal conduct will lead to arrests for serious offenses and help to ‘push out’ the criminal element,” Cpl. Hoffman said.

Police would not disclose tactics and strategies of the Street Crimes Unit, but said the officers will work a variety of shifts during day and night. Wednesday’s enforcement results were not initially available as the teams went to work at night.

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