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Beach committee looks at safety changes

Discussion to resume April 16
April 13, 2018

The Beach and Boardwalk Committee in Rehoboth Beach is looking at ways to improve safety.

Chairman Stan Mills said the committee is studying travel lanes on the beach for Rehoboth Beach Patrol, bike lanes on the Boardwalk, trash collection and police presence.

Mills said like a think tank, the committee is gathering and reviewing data and considering that data in order to make recommendations.

The committee has already agreed to allow the police department to set up a canopy on the Boardwalk. Mills said the department proposed a canopy for bicycle education and safety checks. No location has been determined, but the police department will select a location that does not interfere with Boardwalk traffic.

The committee is also tackling the perception the Boardwalk is unsafe at night. Chief Keith Banks said the operative word is “perception.” He said people at the Boardwalk may just look different than in the past, but statistics do not back up any increase in crime on the Boardwalk. In fact, he said, crime has been trending down on the Boardwalk over the last few years; robbery and fights account for most crimes, and fights are usually domestic incidents with couples arguing with one another.

“It’s a different crowd. They’re louder sometimes. They’re cursing,” Banks said, but there is no indication crime is on the rise. 

Mills said the issue of safety perception was raised by visitor comments to the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce. He said Banks vowed to address the perception during training of seasonal officers and as warranted with full-time officers.

Banks said he would like to see more security cameras on the Boardwalk. The city has three cameras that police monitor, on Wilmington and Delaware avenues, and on the roof of the Boardwalk Plaza hotel. Banks said cameras  help verify if a crime occurred. He recalled a woman who claimed she had been assaulted, but when police looked at camera footage, they found no evidence it occurred. Banks and members of the committee agreed a camera overlooking Rehoboth Avenue would be helpful in tracking people fleeing a crime.

“It’s just another resource,” Banks said of additional cameras.

Banks and beach patrol Capt. Kent Buckson proposed an emergency travel lane on the beach. Mills said the goal is to get emergency response teams from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Mills said when the beach is crowded, it slows emergency response.

He said the streets department has also favored the idea of a designated travel lane for the collection of trash on the beach. Buckson said the lane should be 15 feet, but Mills said the lane could be as narrow as 8 feet. The committee will continue discussion at their Monday, April 16 meeting.

Buckson also asked the committee to consider creating two six-foot-wide bike lanes in the middle of the Boardwalk. These bike lanes would only be in the wider sections in the commercial areas, Mills said, to improve safety before 10 a.m. Mills said Buckson does not suggest policing the lane, but that bicyclists would use the lane and police themselves. The committee has been lukewarm to this idea, but Mills said it will be discussed further.

The issue of trash trucks on the Boardwalk has been a hot-button issue for city officials as far back as 2009, when the original Boardwalk Committee debated whether the large truck should use the Boardwalk.

During the commissioners’ recent budget sessions, a proposal from City Manager Sharon Lynn to purchase a new trash truck for the Boardwalk was shot down because several commissioners, most notably Commissioner Kathy McGuiness, oppose having the truck on the Boardwalk. Lynn removed the truck purchase from the budget, and the commissioners charged the committee with seeking an alternative.

Mills said he does not expect to present recommendations until after the summer. The committee is also researching other beach towns on how their trash is collected.

“If it was easy, it would have been resolved by now,” he said.