A Dover Police Department patrol officer prepares to transport a fugitive to JP Court 7 after a Friday morning arrest by the Street Crimes Unit. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)
DOVER — An arrest, two criminal summonses and a driver’s license citation came within the first hour. And the day was still young. On Friday morning the recently reactivated Dover Police Department Street Crimes Unit went on the offensive for a fourth straight day, enforcing a zero-tolerance policy designed to stem the surge of violent crime attributed mostly to firearms and the illegal drug trade. Pfc. Joshua Boesenberg and Probation and Parole Officer Dan Stagg left the police station in a dark-colored Ford Crown Victoria — with a barely detectable marijuana odor lingering inside from a previous arrest — fully armed and wearing bulletproof vests. However, the most effective crime fighting tool was a computer inside the car as officers rolled through the downtown streets and the Capital Green neighborhood. While Pfc. Boesenberg wheeled the vehicle through New, Fulton, Kirkwood and other downtown streets, his partner was scanning alleyways, front porches, street corners and sidewalks for potential fugitives wanted on arrest warrants and court capiases. The day was pleasantly sunny, and officer Stagg routinely recognized folks by their full names, along with knowing their criminal history.
A man is arrested near the Capital Green neighborhood.
With quick computer entry into the Delaware Justice Information System database, it took a matter of seconds to confirm if any of them were currently sought. Just a few minutes into the shift, officers spotted a familiar man walking by and started a conversation that ended quickly. “What’s going on?” Pfc. Boesenberg asked in a casual tone. “Just hanging out,” said the man, smiling slightly and spreading his arms a bit while slowly swaying back and forth. “Are you good?” the officer cordially asked. “I’m good. You good?” replied the man, clearly not wanting to take the conversation any further. “Always,” the officer responded before driving slowly away. Down the street a bit, officers related that the man had to preserve his “street cred” by saying as little as possible. “A couple days ago, when it was just me and him talking, he was completely open and polite,” Pfc. Boesenberg said. “That’s not unusual once you get (people) alone.” Heading down Fulton Street shortly afterward, Officer Stagg recognized a man behind the wheel of a car, a man with a criminal history who required further examination. Quick entry into the DELJIS database confirmed the man had a revoked driver’s license. Officers approached the vehicle from both sides, questioning the driver and a passenger — both Level II probationers according to records — for a few minutes. The would-be driver consented to a vehicle search, and sat quietly with his passenger on a nearby sidewalk as it proceeded. The search uncovered nothing illegal, and the driver was given a traffic summons for an invalid license. “You have a good day, alright?” Pfc. Boesenberg said while walking way. “Thank you,” the passenger replied. Next up was a ride through the Capital Green housing development — scene of an afternoon shooting a week ago that quickly yielded a person of interest living in close proximity. On the way, the Crown Victoria passed by another Street Crimes Unit officer issuing two criminal summonses regarding an alleged trespassing incident. A Dover police patrol car was present as well. Police checked on a man in a maroon shirt walking into the Dover Public Library, but determined he was clear of any issues. Just moments on arriving in the Capital Green area, officers spotted a man known to be wanted on a public intoxication-related capias. Police then “jumped out” of the vehicle to make contact. The man was told about his public intoxication fugitive status, which brought a sigh of relief. “I thought you were arresting me for a murder or something,” he said, noting that response to the lesser offense was comforting, all things considered. “I’ve tried to cut down on drinking out in public and don’t do it as much as I used to,” the man said a few seconds later as he was being handcuffed. “It’s hard.” A radio call brought a Dover police patrol car — which was at the trespass scene a few minutes earlier — to transport the fugitive to nearby Justice of the Peace Court 7. An effective debut
Officers Boesenberg and Stagg were part of Tuesday’s Street Crimes Unit debut, which netted 11 drug related arrests connected to heroin and crack cocaine. Numerous fugitives wanted by Dover Police Department, Probation and Parole and the courts also were taken into custody. In one case, Pfc.Boesenberg said, four arrestees repeated the same basic story that they turned to heroin to numb the pain of past medical issues helped by prescription pills no longer available. Police said highly addictive heroin, relatively cheap and easy to obtain, is a problem within all socioeconomic and racial categories, and the source of 400 or more incident responses in 2014. City leaders are troubled by a recent violent outbreak of six shootings in 23 days, including three homicides. Over the last 10 months, police have investigated seven homicides among 17 shootings overall. City officials believe that cutting down the drug trade will drop firearms-related issues, along with property crimes, burglaries and robberies among other offenses, as fewer persons illegally scrounge for items that can provide money to purchase drugs. “It’s all about how to get the next high, whether it’s pawning it, trading it, or stealing it,” said Cpl. Mark Hoffman as he rode with officers in the early part of their Friday shift. As the proactive policing continues, authorities expect criminals to change their methods of operation and seek different ways to commit illegal deeds. The one tactic Dover PD reveals is that it won’t discuss tactics publicly. That way, police said, there’s always an uncertainty of how, when and where law enforcement will appear next. Early returns have been good, but Officer Stagg described the pursuit of fugitives and drug dealers is like a game of chess — an ever-changing board of play as opponents react to the other’s moves.