Long Neck community looks for more police

Residents of Long Neck want to keep their community safe and are taking steps to do so. A group of citizens attended the May 9 Sussex County Council meeting to speak to the council about their safety needs.

John Matyjewicz, president of Long Neck Strong — a group of citizens and businesspeople in Long Neck — told the council that, while they live in an unincorporated area, they need help to keep their residents, visitors and businesses safe.

“Our citizens and businesses want to feel safe in their own community… Delaware State Police should provide community policing and protective patrols. As a community, we expect Sussex County and the State of Delaware to keep us safe and remind criminals that our community does not belong to them, but to the residents and businesses.”

Matyjewicz said the area has seen a great deal of growth in the last 10 years; however, the growth does not appear to have garnered any additional police presence.

“I know that County Council pays about $2.2 million a year to the state police to provide 44 police officers for Sussex County. We don’t see enough presence in the Long Neck, Oak Orchard, Angola area.”

The Long Neck Strong group will be hosting a community meeting with state Sens. Gerald Hocker and Brian Pettyjohn, along with State Rep. Ruth Briggs King, on Monday, May 15, at 7 p.m. at Long Neck Elementary School. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the problems plaguing the area and potential solutions. The community meeting is open to all who wish to attend.

Charlie Pollard, owner of Kick n’ Chickin, also spoke to the council, stating that he had had to make the difficult decision to close his store after having been burglarized 13 times in the past three years.

“You can understand why, as a business owner, why I’m frustrated. I have six employees that work at that store that are preparing for the summer.

“I have to ask you, based on these armed robberies out there: If I were to hand you a list of my employees, which one would you pick to face a gun at work? I was unwilling to make that choice, so I closed my business. It was an easy choice but a tough decision… It’s going to be a challenge to work through.”

Pollard said he’s not sure if he would reopen the store if the climate in the area were to change.

“The criminals in Long Neck live under the cover of darkness. They put on hoodies and black masks. They’re not afraid. They’re insulated because of a lot of reasons…” he said.

“In reality, it’s my opinion that this problem doesn’t belong to any one problem or group in Sussex County. We are all a part of the fabric of this community. County Council in some way own part of this — not all of it, but part of it. State Police own part of it. The community, the residents — they all own part of the problem.”

Pollard suggested a task force comprising a representative from County Council, the Delaware State Police, community members and drug enforcement officials, among others.

“There are a lot of different facets of this problem that need to be addressed, and that may just be the starting point.”

He said he hopes to be a part of the solution and appreciates the efforts of those working to fix the problem.

The May 15 meeting of Long Neck Strong will be held at 7 p.m. at Long Neck Elementary School, located at 26064 School Lane, Millsboro. To learn more about Long Neck Strong, visit www.longneckstrong.com.