Long Neck, Angola and Oak Orchard residents say there is a rising crime trend in their neighborhoods, two state legislators say.
“There's concern in Oak Orchard and Long Neck where there have been attempted break-ins,” said Rep. Ruth Briggs-King, R-Georgetown.
Residents say they are concerned because they believe break-ins are rising to both occupied and unoccupied homes, she said.
Briggs-King said many residents in the 37th district, covering Long Neck, Oak Orchard and Angola, attribute the increased criminal activity to a methodone clinic that opened two years ago on Route 24.
“Local folks expressed that they feel like things got worse then,” she said.
Over the past three years, Master Cpl. Gary Fournier of the Delaware State Police said police have recorded 634 burglaries and attempted burglaries in Lewes and Millsboro sectors, including Angola, Long Neck and Oak Orchard, but the number of break-ins has generally declined since 2011.
There were 290 reports in 2011; 168 in 2012; and 176 in 2013.
Fournier said police have no indication whether the reported break-ins are connected to the clinic. He said several factors could attribute to the decline in cases since 2011: crime watch communities, home security systems, social media and more people living in the area may all contribute to reducing crime.
“Not one thing stands out more than another, but our troopers continue to provide quality service for the people in those areas through proactive patrolling on a continued basis,” he said.
At Connections Community Support Programs, a methodone clinic that opened in 2011 at Routes 24 and 5, officials understand there is a drug problem in the area, but they say the clinic is not the problem.
“There is a tremendous problem with opiate addiction in that part of Sussex County. Recently, there was a large drug-selling and manufacturing operation that law enforcement interdicted in Pot Nets Bayside,” said Cathy McKay, founder, president and CEO of Connections.
“These things are undoubtedly having an impact on crime, but it is not possible to say that the clinic is the cause – it is much more of a solution than a cause of crimes like burglary.”
McKay said the clinic is open six days a week; patients enrolled in the program receive doses of methadone and buprenorphine, which does not make them high, but helps them maintain a static state with no withdrawal symptons. In addition to the dosing, she said, patients are required to attend counseling sessions.
Deb Piper, chief development officer for Connections, said the clinic served 78 clients from April through December in 2012. The number increased to 242 in 2012, and so far in 2014, she said, there are 160 clients. The clinic provides doses to 130 to 142 clients a day with take home doses for Sunday when the clinic is closed. Piper said it is extremely rare that a client misses a dosing appointment.
McKay said at times the clinic has been overcrowded because of transportation issues. She said Connections hopes to resolve the problem by providing transportation for patients.
Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, whose 19th Senate district covers the area, said recently surveyed residents told him a rising tide of burglaries and break-ins needs to stop.
“It really raises the question of crime in the area and what's causing it,” Pettyjohn said. “We've got to do something in the area regardless, and need to look at it seriously.”
McKay said she agrees legislators should investigate the reason behind burglaries in the area, but she said her clinic is not the cause for them.
“They will most likely find that addiction and lack of adequate access to addiction treatment programs in Sussex County are more likely the causes, not the treatment programs themselves,” McKay said.
Pettyjohn said he likes the idea of a police substation placed in the area; he intends to keep close watch through his connections at Legislative Hall on where a new Troop 7 headquarters will be built.
“We need to find a central location for where the calls are being dispatched,” he said.