Money would supplant funds given earlier this year by nonprofit group
A month after asking for additional officers to help combat gang violence in the city’s roughest neighborhoods, Dover Police Chief James Hosfelt came before city council again to request more money to police the Loockerman Street bar crowd at closing time.
At a meeting of council’s Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee Oct. 25, Hosfelt asked for an additional $23,000 to cover extra-duty pay for late-night downtown patrols from January through the end of the fiscal year in July.
In the spring, the non-profit Downtown Dover Partnership coughed up $26,000 for additional patrols after a spate of late-night rowdiness that included fights on the street and vandalism of storefronts and businesses adjacent to downtown bars.
The DDP money, gleaned from parking fees and rent income from properties owned by the organization, paid for extra-duty officers on the busiest nights, usually Fridays and Saturdays.
Hosfelt reported that the patrols, suspended in the summer when students from local colleges left town, resulted in 32 arrests and 24 city citations in their first eight weeks.
If he keeps up the patrols, Hosfelt said he’ll burn through the rest of the DDP money by the end of the year. If council doesn’t pick up tab after that, he won’t have the manpower to keep pressure on the closing time crowds.
“Our current patrols usually run nine or 10 people on a shift, when we have issues downtown, it usually takes about 10 people,” to control the situation, he said.
Gregg Moore, DDP president, said the organization was glad to help address an area of concern for downtown businesses, but it can’t keep up that kind of funding.
“We believed there needed to be immediate action,” he said. “We don’t have the kind of revenue that would allow us to continue to do that.”
Members of the Legislative and Finance Committee were receptive to the chief’s request and agreed to consider the additional funding when council does its mid-year budget review early next year. During that review, the city tallies up how much money has been spent and how much has been raised so far, and council can see which departments are running deficits and which, if any, are ahead.
Asked if he anticipates any budget savings in his department for the first half of the fiscal year, Hosfelt was not optimistic.
“It looks as if we’re going to run very similar to last year on our budget and our overtime budget, if not over,” he said. “I don’t see any reason we’ll be under budget.”
Councilman Reuben Salters said there’s no question the Police Department needs more funding to do certain things, but he’s reluctant to move forward with a “piecemeal” approach to addressing problems.
“You have a need in certain parts of the downtown, you have a need in other areas of the city,” he said.
Hosfelt said he intends to bring together a group that would help the department shape a more unified strategy for tackling the city’s most visible crime problems.
“We’re looking at forming some type of committee… rather than just arbitrarily increasing the numbers of the police force,” he said.
Councilman William McGlumphy, who routinely slams city staff for what he sees as budgetary waste, said he thinks council can shake loose the relatively small amount of money the chief wants for downtown patrols.
“If we take a look at other [budget] areas that have a direct line to downtown development, I think that sum should be able to be found,” he said.
In other business…
n Councilwoman Beverly Williams attempted to arrest any future city funding of the new Dover library, but her motion was defeated with a vote of 7-2.
In response to a report last month updating funding plans for the project, which outlined an unlikely scenario that would have the city assuming any unpaid construction debt, Williams said she was looking out for the taxpayers.
Other council members called Williams’ motion a “shortsighted” attempt to “hamstring” the library project.
Only Councilman William McGlumphy joined Williams in supporting her motion.
n Council approved a new contract with the city’s electrical and communication workers union that gives those employees a 3% raise this year, retroactive to August, and a 2% raise next year. The new contract also guarantees no furloughs for the union.
Council members Williams, McGlumphy and Thomas Leary voted against the contract.
Email Doug Denison at firstname.lastname@example.org