Dover Chief of Police Paul Bernat briefed the Dover Human Relations Commission Tuesday night on how the commission can interact with the police department.
Dover’s Human Relations Commission was briefed Tuesday night on ways the group can interact with Dover Police to help communities better cooperate and better communicate with each other and with law enforcement.
The occasion was a special meeting of the nine-member panel called by Chairman Cecil Wilson; a highlight of the session was a briefing by Dover Chief of Police Paul Bernat.
The chief, who took office on April 4, said Dover Police are active in 49 home association or neighborhood watch groups within the city limits, and has a Community Policing Unit that works with those groups, offering information and assistance on topics such as safety, drug awareness, sex offender management and elderly assistance programs.
Bernat noted the department also offers detailed crime statistics for neighborhood organizations to help them understand what is happening around them.
One of the department’s most successful crime fighting tools has been the use of social media, including Facebook and Twitter, which allows police to quickly broadcast throughout the city information about crimes within minutes after they take place.
One example of this was a February case where a suspect was caught within four hours of a Dover bank robbery. A photo of the robber and his car was put out over the Internet and retransmitted through the local media; the man was stopped by Harrington Police when someone recognized the car after seeing the police Facebook page.
Dover Police also are working on a tip line that can be accessed via text messaging, Bernat said.
The anonymity given the tipster is an important facet of the program.
“It just makes it easier for people to contact us,” he said, adding that people also feel safer in supplying crime information without their identities being a factor.
“As long as we know, we can investigate and find out who the culprits are,” Bernat said.
In other actions, Commissioner Eugene Ruane called for the newly-formed group to work out goals and a mission statement to guide the commission.
“People expect us to have a specific action agenda,” Ruane said.
Wilson also reminded the group to work hand-in-hand with City Council members to learn more about issues in each of their districts, and said the Dover commission will work closely with the state of Delaware’s Human Relations Commission.
The next regular meeting of the HRC is scheduled for Tuesday, July 22.