Good and bad news in annual Dover crime report

DOVER— It was a challenging year for the Dover Police Department as the city experienced a record number of seven homicides in 2015 compared to two in 2014.

Chief Paul Bernat presented the city police’s annual report at Monday’s city council meeting.

“It’s hard to say what a particular reason is for the increase,” Chief Bernat said. “It seems like violence is everywhere right now. It just seems like society is particularly violent.”

Of the seven homicides, detectives in the city’s Criminal Unit solved five of them.

Dover Police Chief Paul Bernat

Dover Police Chief Paul Bernat

There was also an 11 percent increase in violent crimes which include murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

Shootings increased by 53 percent from 17 to 26, and shots fired complaints increased by 59 percent, from 119 to 189.

But Chief Bernat said the department continues to excel in investigating major crimes, with some of the highest clearance rates in the nation when compared to cities of similar size.

“This year we experienced 261 less robberies than in 2014 and 52 percent of these crimes were cleared,” Chief Bernat said. “There were 81 burglary investigations in 2015, one more burglary than in 2014.”

Of the 81 burglaries, 64 percent of those crimes were cleared, he added.

The chief said it has long been the philosophy of the Dover police that a very large percentage of crime in the city is tied to illegal drugs.

“This year the Drugs, Vice and Organized Crime Section saw a decrease of 38 cases for a total of 1,688 proactive cases involving drugs and counterfeit merchandise.”

“As a result of these cases, this group of officers seized significant amounts of illegal drugs and money,” he added.

These seizures include 11,704 grams of marijuana (104% increase), 2,204 grams of cocaine (184% increase), 1,700 grams of heroin (871% increase), and $98,893 in currency.”

The Police Department also seized 26 handguns from the city streets compared to 16 guns last year for a 6 percent increase, said Chief Bernat.

“We implemented the street crime unit and those are five officers that are extremely proactive to help get the guns off of the street,” he added.

Chief Bernat also mentioned the police department has a total of 101 officers after hiring 10 new officers last year.

In addition to the promotions and retirements, the Dover Police Department brought back the cadet program. The program was fully funded by grants for six cadets through June 2017.

Chief Bernat said that getting more involved in the community may help the crime rate decrease in the future.

“We’re implementing the PAL program and plan to continue to connect with the youth,” Chief Bernat said.

Councilman James Hutchison said he’s proud of everyone that works in the Police Department.

“We have a lot of work to do, but I see the demands that are upon you guys every single day and I thank you for what you do,” Councilman Hutchison said.

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