Dover Chief of Police Paul Bernat announced Wednesday that he would be putting additional officers on patrol duty, just hours after the city’s third shooting in four days.
During a City Hall press conference, Bernat said he planned to reassign eight administrative officers to street patrol to help deal with the recent rash of gun violence, which left two people dead and two others injured between Sunday and Wednesday.
“We have eight staff officers, and all eight of us, including myself, were back out on the street today looking for this guy,” Bernat said, referring to the gunman who shot another man in the foot on North Kirkwood Street, just hours before the previously-scheduled press conference.
“We have an accreditation manager and a planning and training person, and they don’t know it yet, but they’re getting ready to hit the streets again,” the chief added.
Dover Police Department spokesman Cpl. Mark Hoffman said Thursday that administrative officers are conducting street patrols after finish their normal duties.
Hoffman declined to say how many additional officers were being assigned to street patrol duty, saying he could not divulge police tactics. But he did say that officers who normally work in the sex offender or community policing units are conducting patrol duties.
“These are all units that have specialized functions and they’re out anyhow, but now they’ll be targeting areas that we want to focus on,” he said.
At Wednesday’s press conference Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen’s called for Dover residents to step up and be a part of the solution, as well.
“We expect the residents of every community to cooperate with the police department,” he said. “It is the responsibility of everyone to assist the police in making this city safe.”
As Christiansen and other city officials spoke, police were searching the area north of Division Street for the gunman in Wednesday’s shooting.
That incident followed two fatal shootings on Sunday.
The gunman who fired multiple shots into a crowd of people leaving a party on Simon Circle about 1:24 a.m. – killing 24-year-old New Castle resident Tyson Henry and wounding a 25-year-old Dover woman – is still on the loose.
In the second incident 32-year-old Dover resident Shamarr Willingham fatally shot 33-year-old New Jersey resident Yusif Lamb in a dispute over a woman, according to Dover police. Investigators ruled Tuesday that Willingham had acted in self defense after Lamb threatened him with a gun.
In all, there have been three violence-related deaths in the city in the past month. Before that, the last killing in Dover was in February 2013, according to police.
Bernat acknowledged that the shooting, as well as a fatal stabbing in July, has raised anxiety in the city.
“I want to assure the public that the Dover Police Department is utilizing every resource available to put the end to these violent crimes and get the assailants off the streets,” he said.
Early Thursday afternoon, a few residents who live near where Wednesdays’ shooting occurred said they had already noticed an increased police presence.
Elaine Wilson, who lives on Queen Street, said she’s noticed more police cars than usual, something she believes will help reduce crime in the area.
“Don’t you think people are going to be scared because they see the police,” she asked.
Bernat on Wednesday said the Dover Police Department has not requested any assistance from outside police agencies.
“Right now, I don’t feel we need extra help,” he said. “We think we have control of it and I think we’ll end up solving all three of these crimes.”
Christiansen later said he does not believe the recent spate of violence is indicative of the overall crime trends in the city.
“These incidents do not indicate a trend toward increasing violence within the city,” he said. “At this point in time, they’re isolated incidents and at least one has been perpetrated by outsiders. [But] we’re not going to tolerate this. Dover is our home.”