Delaware State Police are trying to interact with their communities more often, and not just when something goes wrong.
Troop 4 officers chatted with neighbors at a casual “Community Café” event on March 27 at the Frankford Family Diner. The public got to ask questions, and police talked about recent projects, concerns and successes.
One of DSP’s three Sussex County locations, Troop 4 is based in Georgetown, with a boot-shaped coverage area from Georgetown south to the Maryland line and the Indian River Inlet south to the Maryland line. Capt. Rodney Layfield commands the 90 troopers, including roughly 40 regular patrol officers and Sussex County’s 50 detectives.
To really attack the problem areas, they said, Delaware State Police have spent the last few years targeting crime hotspots. For Troop 4, that was Oak Orchard. In addition to their regular patrols, Troop 4 would dedicate their extra officer to the most common crime hours.
At first, the DSP were responding to about 200 complaints per month. That number initially increased “because we were out there, stopping cars, looking for drugs, looking for DUIs and stuff,” Layfield said. “But overall complaints went down to 100 to 120 complaints a month. We cut our crime, our response to Oak Orchard, in a year, in half.”
Similarly, the DSP increased their presence years ago on Route 113 (Dupont Boulevard).
“If you’ve traveled in Sussex County, you know not to speed between Millsboro and Georgetown on the highway there around Melvin Joseph Cemetery. You see troopers there. It’s on purpose,” Layfield said.
Traffic collisions were occurring at an inordinate rate. The new traffic signal at Speedway Road has helped, police said, although traffic near the Avenue of Honor will likely need a traffic light as the Indian River School District pursues building more schools in that area. The fields and forests also result in high deer activity. With all of that, Delaware State Police are trying to slow cars down.
Although the public sometimes demands answers on how police are cleaning up crime, the DSP can’t always provide answers.
“We can’t release certain information when it’s hot and heavy. We were able to solve a lot of those crimes,” regarding robbery and thefts, Layfield said. Police get a lot of flak when they can’t announce their crime-fighting techniques, he acknowledged, but Layfield said they’re quietly listening and investigating before making their move. Any public acknowledgement of success can come after the arrests.
When asked about bail reform, Layfield said a police officer’s job is to immediately stop dangerous people who are doing dangerous actions. However, he said, he also understands that certain populations are sitting in jail, waiting for trial for longer periods of time than other people, because they can’t pay bail.
On a similar note, he said, drugs are incredible dangerous, but he added that he empathizes with the distraught families whose loved-ones are wrapped up in the heroin epidemic. Police officers are first-responders, so even after they shoot a “bad guy,” they immediately have to render first aid, Layfield said.
Asked about the international crime gang MS-13, Layfield said, “We don’t have an MS-13 problem down here. Do we have gangs? Yes.”
Some crimes have had gang connections, he said, but Layfield emphasized that he doesn’t feel gangs are driving crime locally.
In the schools
Many schools have a school resource officer (SRO), who is a uniformed police officer assigned to the buildings, either part-time or fulltime. The Indian River School District also has one constable per school, who are armed former law-enforcement officers that carry their old service weapon. They have the power to detain a suspect at schools until an arresting officer can arrive.
Layfield, who is also vice president of the IRSD school board, pointed out that at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County in Maryland, the SRO there reacted exactly as intended when an armed student shot two classmates on March 20. The school resource officer immediately responded and fired back, striking the shooter’s hand. Although the student killed himself, the SRO was praised for his quick response.
For public, knowledge is power
People can learn more about local crime through the DSP crime mapping.
“If you’re super nosy, you’re not going to find out which wife was arguing with what husband. … You may find out there was an assault down the road, you may find a little fist [icon] in a bubble to find there was an assault,” Layfield said. “But burglary, theft — we try to advertise what’s going on in the community as much as possible. This gives you the opportunity to search, reflect and look at what’s going on.”
The online crime map is on the Delaware State Police’s website, at http://dsp.delaware.gov (click on the “Crime” tab).
Press releases are posted online at https://dspnewsroom.com.
This month, anyone is being invited to attend free local trainings on responding to intruders and active shooter situations. First-responders are teaching people how to defend themselves in such an emergency.
On Tuesday, April 17, from 6 to 8 p.m., the DSP will host a Violent Intruder Preparedness & Response (VIPR) seminar at Indian River High School, 29772 Armory Road, Dagsboro. On Friday, April 27, from 7 to 9 p.m., the Frankford Volunteer Fire Company will host Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE). On Thursday, May 17, from 5 to 9 p.m., the Ocean View Police Department will also host CRASE.
The training is open to educators, churches, businesses and any other interested individuals.
Local police and medics have also created task forces to respond to potential incidents, such as an active shooter situation with multiple casualties, in which medics would enter the building with police, to treat the wounded, even if the perpetrator is still at large.
With consumer crime, information can be key to people helping keep themselves safe. Scams and digital theft seems to be the crime of the future. Officers at the meeting reviewed several common scams, starting with phone calls. Tax season is reaching a climax, which means scammers telephone victims to demand payment for “overdue taxes.”
“The IRS does not call you,” they only send letters through U.S. Postal Service, explained Sgt. Dannaile Rementer. Phone numbers can be spoofed, so it looks like the Internal Revenue Service is calling, but taxpayers shouldn’t allow themselves to be fooled.
Similarly, if a grandchild calls, asking for bail money, but begging the grandparent not to call anyone else, people should hang up and call their grandchild separately, as this common scam often involves people pretending to be a family member in order to have money sent to them.
Credit cards are always at risk in public places. Credit card skimmers have been found in Sussex County, overlaid onto gas pumps or ATMs, reading all the information that is entered to the machine.
That means people should be suspicious when approaching a gas pump or ATM. Skimming devices can be laid on to of legitimate equipment, so people should wiggle the card reader or examine the keypad for any loose or wobbling parts.
Some skimmers use short-range Bluetooth signals to send information, so the perpetrators can sit in parking lot and gather data that the skimmer has stolen, without having to leave their cars. People can test for this by turning on their phone’s Bluetooth signal and looking for any new network that appears. (Police acknowledge that isn’t a perfect system, since other customers at the pumps might also have Bluetooth.)
People who think their personal information or financial information was compromised should contact the bank immediately, then report it to the police.
Rementer recommended that people only use cash or a credit card — not a bank debit card — so any stolen money comes from the credit card company.
“I would much rather a credit card be out the money, than you completely deplete your personal account and have to wait for the bank to reimburse you.”
Internet crimes may be reported to the FBI through www.IC3.gov.
People can contact Delaware State Police Troop 4 at 23652 Shortly Road in Georgetown, or call (302) 856-5850. Immediate emergencies should be reported to 911.