While proactive policing strategies are already in place, Dover officials are seeking the public’s help in keeping their community safe.
At a press conference held on Wednesday, Dover Chief Paul Bernat described the recent outbreak of violence as “unheard of” in Dover, referencing three shooting incidents that took place within the span of four days, in which two died and two were injured, one seriously.
According to Dover police, shots rang out at approximately 1:25 a.m. on Sunday as a party concluded on the 300 block of Simon Circle. As they approached their cars, 24-year-old Tyson Henry of New Castle and a 25-year-old female were struck by gunfire. Henry was transported to Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, where the died; the female victim, whom police did not identify, was last listed in serious but stable condition.
Later that afternoon, at approximately 4:16PM on South Kirkwood Street in Dover, 33-year-old Yusif Lamb, of Montclair, N.J. died from a single gunshot wound to the chest. While the incident was intially believed to be a criminal homicide, Dover police quickly determined that the shooting was an act of self-defense.
The deaths were, respectively, the second and third murders of the year in Dover, the most since 2011, when six murders were recorded. 2012 and 2013 witnessed one homicide per year.
On Wednesday, hours before an already-scheduled press conference, another shooting occurred in the area of Kirkwood and Division streets at approximately 10:08 a.m. A male victim suffered a gunshot wound to his foot and was treated at a local hospital. The suspect was described as a dark-skinned black male with a light mustache, last seen running northbound from the scene wearing blue jeans, a two-tone brown sweatshirt.
Despite these occurrences, Bernat and other city officials stressed that public safety is a top priority in Dover.
“I want to assure the public that the Dover Police Department is utilizing every available resource to put an end to these violent crimes and get the assailants off the streets,” Bernat said.
To emphasize this statement, Bernat said that his department’s Criminal Investigations Unit has a crime clearance rate nearly twice the national average, but did not elaborate further, except to note that his robbery clearance rate was approximately 80 percent.
According to FBI statistics, national clearance rates in 2012 were 46.8 percent for violent crimes and 19 percent for property crimes.
Bernat said that patrols by Dover police have been bolstered by federal grant money, and noted that their efforts are enhanced by other units within the department, specifically citing its community policing and narcotics units. He also touted the department’s embrace of social media, which now includes a “My Police Department” app that allows users to receive official announcements and submit tips anonymously.
Asked if Dover police would be engaging outside law enforcement agencies to help in their patrols, Bernat responded that while the state police were involved in the search for a suspect in Wednesday’s shooting, future policing efforts would continue to be kept in-house.
Dover City Council President David Bonar encouraged residents to assist law enforcement by providing information.
“‘Snitching’ is indeed saving your community,” Bonar said. “This city has got to become a very safe place to live, and if it takes a little snitching to get it done, that’s the way needs to be done.”
While optimistic that the shootings would be solved, Bernat acknowledged that there is so much that proactive policing can accomplish.
“While the incidents that occurred within the last month are certainly unfortunate and rare in our community, it should be said that when the will to do evil exists within a person, it can be difficult to stop,” Bernat observed.