Lewis: Solutions needed after rash of shootings in Dover


Councilman Brian E. Lewis represents the 2nd District of Dover. He is also the chair of the Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee.

As one of your Dover City Council members and chair of the Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee, I felt compelled to publicly express both my sadness and anger over the recent level of gun violence, to include drive-by shootings, in our city. That being said, I am hoping local and state leaders can come together across the political spectrum and find solutions in reducing the harm gun violence is causing.

The recent shootings that have occurred in the downtown area of Dover are incredibly tragic. I have grave concerns that we may see situations like this increase as the summer months approach if we do not get a hold of this crisis and take a proactive stance in addressing the matter.
As of now, unlawful guns are the drivers of much of the city’s violent-crime problem. The major question is how do we reduce the number of shootings in the area and get a grasp on the illegal guns out on the streets? Many would say the onus of this task falls upon our police chief and mayor, who is in charge of the police department.

However, when we talk about public safety, so often the conversation becomes synonymous with police. Our police can’t solve every problem in the community; we put so much into that bucket already. Our police are such an important and invaluable tool in the response to public safety, but they can’t be the entire toolbox. It takes a collaborative effort between community members, churches, civic associations, city personnel, courts, government leaders and local businesses.

Public safety is not just police; public safety means the right laws, the right judges, the right prosecutions and the right education to the public, as it all flows through the system.

In the past couple days, I have received several phone calls and emails from constituents that I represent in the 2nd District. Many residents find it tremendously unsettling with the string of recent shooting events in the city and want to know what strategy our city government is going to take in addressing the violence. Some specifically are concerned with an alleged drive-by shooting April 8 at a home on Lady Bug Drive in the Clearview Meadow development. The incident still has numerous residents worried and fearful to the point of considering putting their properties up for sale and moving out of Dover. Some are requesting more police patrols in that neighborhood, which has been an issue due to staffing shortages. The bottom line is that nobody in our city should have to live in fear for his or her own safety! Enough is enough! The constituents I represent in the 2nd District are tired of the same thing happening over and over again.

When I was a police officer with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., I saw far too many violent incidents involving shootings, with some being psychologically challenging, especially those that involved children and teens.

National data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that firearms are the No. 1 cause of death for children and teens in the United States. These gun-related deaths include accidents, suicides and homicides. To me, this is unconscionable. Our children are becoming victims of negligence and victims of thoughtless gun violence.

Today, many cities in our nation are rocked by gun violence. Through Dec. 7, 2023, at least 40,167 people had died from gun violence in the U.S. last year. According to documented statistics, that’s an average of almost 118 deaths each day. Of those who died, 1,306 were teens, and 276 were children.

Though law enforcement is in place to handle criminals, it also is up to the community to engage and assist. We can make a decision to ignore it and point out the fact that some of our children are running wild and getting guns and hurting people if we want, or we can make a decision to do what we can as a community, to not only protect our family but our neighborhoods, as well.

The chief of police recently presented his 2023 annual report, and according to the report, members of the Street Crimes Unit continued focusing their investigative efforts on guns, gangs and arresting violent offenders. Through a collaborative effort, they were responsible for the seizure of 127 illegal firearms. It is clear those cases directly contributed to the 31% decrease in shootings resulting in injury during the reporting period. Additionally, some gun reduction initiatives that have been successful include the Street Crimes Unit working collaboratively with a multijurisdictional task force consisting of various local, state and federal law enforcement agencies that investigate and prosecute crimes involving the illegal use of firearms. Lastly, there are voluntary gun buyback programs that allow gun owners to trade their firearms to government entities, usually law enforcement. Most recent research shows that buybacks can help if they are part of a broader effort to reduce gun violence. They can also influence public perception of how authorities are dealing with gun violence and serve as opportunities to educate communities about gun violence reduction strategies.

My experience as a police officer on the bike patrol unit in Washington leads me to believe that community policing plays a vital role in helping deter crime. I would implore our police chief and mayor to commit to finding ways to allocate resources toward supporting and enhancing our community policing in Dover.

In closing, improving public safety in the city of Dover is my first, second and third priority, and with today’s climate and struggle with gun violence that encompasses every part of our city, we must do all we can do to keep guns off our streets. We need a holistic approach to confront it head-on, and I would hope that the mayor and my fellow colleagues on City Council share the same sentiments.

Reader reactions, pro or con, are welcomed at civiltalk@iniusa.org.

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