Frankford’s minimal police coverage was a topic of concern for both the town council and residents during the Monday, Oct. 1, town council meeting.
The town currently has no police force of its own and is instead being covered by extra Delaware State Police patrols for 12 hours each week.
Councilman Skip Ash said that he had spoken with about 10 residents before the council meeting and that “I think people want to have police.” Ash said the people he had talked to indicated that they would not mind paying more in town taxes to fund a police department.
Although the town council had previously declined an offer from the Dagsboro Police Department to run the police service in both of the towns, the issue came up again at Monday’s meeting. During the previous talks with Dagsboro, it was estimated that residents would pay $200 to $220 more in town taxes annually to fund Frankford’s portion of a Dagsboro-run Frankford police force.
Town Clerk Cheryl Lynch said that Frankford would have to supply vehicles for such a venture, since Dagsboro does not have the two extra vehicles that would be required. Frankford still has police vehicles from its former police department but had been considering selling them.
The Town’s police vehicles, it was pointed out, are between five and 11 years old and have been sitting idle for quite some time, so new vehicles might ultimately be necessary.
Lynch said there is grant money available for purchasing vehicles, but council Vice President Greg Welch questioned how that would work. Council President Joanne Bacon said she was under the impression that if the Town restarted its own police service or agreed to a combined force with Dagsboro, no grants would be available to the Town for police funding for three years.
“I might be wrong on that,” Bacon said. “We’d have to find that out.”
Welch said the Dagsboro partnership had ultimately been nixed because of concerns about the cost, and an estimate of $120,000 as the cost to the Town didn’t include purchasing new vehicles, he said.
“Everybody thought it was a great idea,” Welch said of the concept, although he said many felt “that not everybody could afford it.”
Welch asked if it would be possible for the Town to survey residents on the issue.
Ash said he feels that if the Town had a police force, annexing into the town would be more attractive for properties currently adjacent to town limits.
“But you’re also giving them the bill, too,” Welch said.
Ash and several residents mentioned an issue with four-wheelers running through town at high speeds and disregarding safety measures.
Mike Dugdale, a resident of McNeal Drive, said that when he and his wife, Valerie, bought their home, people kidded him that his home, near Honolulu Road, was in the “drug capital of Sussex County, or something like that.”
“When we moved in, everything was nice and peaceful,” Dugdale said. “And now, when we come home from church, we see people walking down the road with Jack Daniels bottles, and we’ve seen quite a few drug buys.
“When you had a police force, even with one man … it was nice and quiet.” Now, Dugdale said, with the current 12 hours of state police coverage, “That ain’t good enough.”
Dugdale said he worries that children on his street are going to be hit by the racing four-wheelers.
“They’re flying down that street,” Valerie Dugdale said.
“Now that you’ve paved Reed Street, they’re going down that street faster,” Mike Dugdale said. “They don’t have to worry about the potholes.”
“We need a presence of some kind of law-enforcement officer,” Mike Dugdale said. “I just want you guys to be a little more proactive.”
“I agree that we do need some type of police force,” Welch said. “But we just weren’t able to fund it.”
In other business, the council:
• Announced that Frankford’s Fall Festival will be held in the town park on Oct. 27, with the festivities to include a parade, a costume contest and a visit from a Delaware State Police helicopter.
• Set Frankford’s official Halloween observance and trick-or-treating for Oct. 31 from 6 to 8 p.m.
By Kerin Magill