Study: Local towns among safest in state
Three South Coastal Delaware towns were recently recognized for being in the top 10 safest places to live in Delaware.
HomeSnacks.net analyzed statistics from 20 municipalities in Delaware with a population of more than 2,000, and named Ocean View the safest in Delaware for 2019. The towns of Millsboro and Selbyville were ranked ninth and 10th, respectively.
According to the website, HomeSnacks’ mission is to “help people find a place to live that fits them personally.” They do that, they said, through “combining recent data from the Census, FBI, OpenStreetMaps, and dozens of other sources.”
“They really just look at crime stats. But there is the overall safety of the community,” said Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin. “Certainly, our efforts with our community outreach, our emergency operations plan to mitigate natural disasters and manmade disasters, our active-shooter training and the protocols we have in place — that all combines. And, the fact that everyone’s engaged and that we have partnerships with everybody.”
McLaughlin said the ranking shows a good return on investment in the Town’s police department.
“The Town of Ocean View has invested a lot financially in its police department. I think having such a safe community is like a good return on the investment that the citizens have made in the police department,” said McLaughlin.
“It’s team-approach. The officers are at the front lines, but we can’t accomplish what we’d like to accomplish if we don’t have the support of the mayor and town council, town manager, town employees and the citizens. They’ve given us the tools and resources we need to be successful. Fortunately, the fact we have a dedicated staff that’s out there proactively policing the town gives the end result of a safe community.”
Ocean View Mayor Walter Curran noted he was proud the department was recognized for their hard work.
“I’ve known that for the last three years. I’m glad the rest of the world woke up and accepted that fact,” he said with a smile.
Proactive policing is essential to having a safe community, said McLaughlin, noting it’s something that has constantly been reinforced throughout his career.
“The key is we have the proper staffing levels to manage our calls for service and also maintain an adequate amount of unobligated time to conduct proactive policing. That’s like the secret sauce,” he said. “We’ve always proactive.
“Fortunately, for me, it came natural — I like to get out in the community, I like to talk to people, and I realized the value of that as a young police officer. I solved many a criminal case simply because someone felt comfortable enough to come to me and talk to me.”
Those who apply to work in the department are screened for their suitability to proactive policing early on, he said.
“We specifically look for people who display those traits — who are willing to socialize, to get out of their cars and talk to people, and actually enjoy that,” said McLaughlin. “We’re fortunate we have a very professional, seasoned staff. They understand the value of community policing and voluntarily practice community policing on a daily basis. The end result is the officers are engaged with the community, and everybody is working together toward a common goal, and the results speak for themselves.”
Millsboro cites collaboration with community
Millsboro Police Chief Brian Calloway said he was just glad to be recognized for the department’s good work.
“One of the things we’ve done as a police department that has, hopefully, gotten us to the ranking we have on HomeSnacks — where they’re gathering their data, they’ve seen we’ve had a reduction in serious crime and reported crimes,” he said. “We work with our community, whether it’s developing Neighborhood Watch programs, whether it’s just doing outreach… I’d like to hope that’s what contributed to our ranking.”
Calloway said it’s important for his officers to work directly with the Millsboro community because that is, after all, for whom they work.
“If our citizens are not helping us, if we’re not working together in a collaborative fashion, then those things can escalate. For example, if you have a problem with someone loitering at a business and that business maybe doesn’t call the police because they feel like it’s something we wouldn’t address, then that can also lead to other things. Before you know it, you could have a major problem, like drug activity in a parking lot or people vandalizing cars. You have to say, ‘Where did it start?’
“Working with your communities and your businesses, they can have a better relationship and can understand they have to report sometimes even the smallest things before they become or create larger problems.”
Calloway added that he has an open-door policy and welcomes any citizen or business owner to visit his department.
“We also do outreach,” he said, noting the Touch-a-Truck event held last weekend at the Tractor Supply store in town.
“It’s for kids… But it’s also a way for us to meet their parents, or someone just going to Tractor Supply just to shop in town. It sparks conversation. They see that the police are people as well and if they have a concern they can relay that to us. It sparks that community effort that we’re looking for.”
The department hosts many similar outreach programs, such as Millsboro’s Night Out, held on Halloween, which gives kids in the Millsboro area the opportunity to trick-or-treat in a safe environment.
On May 11, the department will host a bicycle safety event at the Peninsula Crossing shopping center, in conjunction with Lowe’s and the other businesses there.
“We partnered with DelDOT and gave out free bike helmets to children and bicycle safety pamphlets to children,” said Calloway. “Last year’s event was a complete success. This year, we’re going to have more funding. It’s just another way to reach out to our community, our children, everyone here in Millsboro. We’re able to do that with our community’s help.”
Both McLaughlin and Calloway noted that while the rankings are great, they have to be realistic.
“While I love to say we’re one of the safest, stats are stats. We could have one robbery today that could take us from No. 1 to No. 10,” said McLaughlin. “Just one incident. So, you have to keep that in mind, too. Next year we could be No. 10. You have to keep it in perspective.”
“Often, I look at this information and look at where did it come from,” added Calloway, noting that similar websites don’t have the same ranking for each town.
However, both said they are pleased the work of their officers is being recognized.
“I’m certainly grateful that we received that ranking,” said Calloway. “I’d like to think we do a lot in our community to get to that ranking.”
“At the end of the day, we’re very pleased to be No. 1. This has been almost two decades of work to get to this point,” said McLaughlin. “It was a long-term investment by the Town in the police department, and it’s nice to see they’re reaping the rewards of it. We have a fulltime professional police agency.”
To read the full list of the 10 safest cities in Delaware according to HomeSnacks, visit www.homesnacks.net/cities/safest-places-in-delaware.
By Maria Counts