Rehoboth police, public works survive busy summer

Understaffed departments adjusted shifts, modified services to get job done
October 19, 2021

Similar to most of the businesses in Rehoboth Beach this past summer, the city’s police and public works departments faced major labor shortages. Despite that, Rehoboth Beach Police Chief Keith Banks and Public Works Director Kevin Williams said their departments managed to overcome those shortages and provide the expected level of service.

During an Oct. 12 meeting of the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk & Beach Committee, Banks said the department hired 14 seasonal officers this year instead of the normal 26, and almost none of the seasonal hires were returning from previous seasons.

Banks offered three main reasons for the city’s trouble in finding cadets this summer – hiring begins in early spring, which meant this year there were still a lot of unknowns about COVID; the time commitment of four three-day weekends before the season even starts; and pay – the city pays cadets $14 an hour, which makes it difficult for them to afford local housing if they don’t live nearby.

Banks said another factor contributing to staffing issues is how many weekend events are happening in the city that require extra coverage. There are events constantly going on, he said.

Banks credited the cadets and the full-time officers with being flexible about hours and what they were asked to do. He said that allowed the department to be seen and observed out in public, which is important because their visible presence acts as a deterrent and allows visitors to ask questions.

Banks said police, fire and emergency medical services calls were all up this year. It wasn’t unusual to have three, four or five ambulances going at once, he said.

Banks said there were more complaints than ever about people biking on the Boardwalk, delivery vehicles blocking travel lanes, smoking in nonsmoking areas, public consumption of alcohol and the use of marijuana.

It’s not good or bad, it’s just what the officers saw, said Banks.

All those things said, Banks was generally pleased with how the summer went. There were zero burglaries, zero robberies, and while general domestic disputes were up, the violent ones were down, he said, adding that alcohol consumption played a large role in the verbal domestic disputes.

As for public works, Williams said the same trash guys basically had to work seven days a week all summer long to handle the trash on the Boardwalk. It all takes a little longer and there are fewer passes, but they held up fairly well, he said.

Williams said the city installed four or five new dune mats and is expected to add a few more this winter. That would mean more than half the dune crossings have mats on them, he said.

This summer, there seemed to be an increase in debris left behind by wedding groups that his staff had to deal with, said Williams. Staff is going to look into strengthening the wording for wedding parties to make it their responsibility to clean up, he said.

Overall, said Williams, the department made it through the summer OK, but they’re also glad it’s over.

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