DOVER, Del.- Homicides, gang activity and COVID-19, these are just a few of the challenges listed in the recently released Dover Police Department’s 2020 Annual Report.
“We have definitely had a year of 56 significant changes and we almost had to literally redefine our business,” said Dover Police Chief Thomas A. Johnson Jr.,.
Like other businesses and organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the normal operations of the Dover Police Department, including supply and interaction with the community.
“How do you do that when you are literally in a locked environment and even though you are not locked you have to be socially distant, masked, trying not to touch anything,” Chief Johnson said.
As the police department had to find strategies to continue doing its job during the pandemic, it was seeing an increase in homicides.
Chief Johnson said the rise in homicides they suffered was a phenomenon from late 2019 to early 2020.
Dover has seen 9 homicides, the most they have seen since 2015, when they had 7.
“If you are on the right track to setting a homicide record, for your community there are a lot of words you can use, but alarming is one of them, because if that doesn’t sound an alarm , you don’t care, ”Chief Johnson mentioned.
We are told that with few exceptions, the incidents of 2020 could be attributed to an increase in gang activity in 2019.
“The gang problem was at its peak at that point, and it was creating tragedy after tragedy, tragedy after tragedy and it required a bold response from law enforcement,” said Chief Johnson.
Recognizing the need to follow up law enforcement efforts with prevention programs, the Department is preparing a plan to address the conditions that led to gang involvement.
One of these goals is to increase awareness among young people.
“We are the ones doing our due diligence to try to tackle an issue that, if we do nothing, might come and visit us,” said Chief Johnson.
And building that bridge between community and law enforcement is something some see as positive.
“Not only do young people understand them, but also so that they develop an understanding with the community and what the community wants and how they can best meet their needs,” said Mike Brickner, executive director of ACLU Delaware.
The chief said a key police department initiative in 2020 was the development of the Chief of Police’s Advisory Committee.
Where the advisory committee and stakeholders regularly sit down to learn from each other and talk about policing.
The chief also said that another thing he was proud of was the completion of a renovation project for their emergency communications center.
He added that in the future, he was paying attention to the effects of COVID conditions and how this might impact mental health and public safety.