Although Ellendale has a population of only about 400 people, a new housing development called Ingram Village could triple the town’s population over the next few years and the current police chief is trying to work proactively to curb crime in the small town.
Ellendale’s one-man police force is expanding with the addition of a part-time officer who is no stranger to crime.
Patrolman Bruce VonGoerres will start patrol duties with the department this week, following a 30-year career with the Delaware State Police.
While Ellendale Police Chief Michael Warchol said VonGoerres is highly decorated and experienced, he also confirmed that the town’s newest officer was arrested in May 2013 for a first-offense DUI in Bridgeville.
The DUI charge was settled in a pre-trial plea bargain that resulted in fines, a probationary period without a license and entrance into first-offender program that left no points and no record of a DUI conviction on his license.
“I come from a background where I’m willing to give a second chance,” Warchol said. “Granted the mistake wasn’t minor, a DUI is a serious offense, but he’s made steps [to ensure sure it won’t happen again.]”
Warchol said the matter was resolved before discussions regarding VonGoerres’ appointment to the Ellendale Police Department began.
Warchol said he also knew VonGoerres was considering retirement when he made the call asking if he still had an interest in joining Ellendale’s police force.
“I couldn’t pass it up,” VonGoerres said. “I’ve been a cop for 30 years. It’s in my blood.”
VonGoerres said he’s looking forward to getting to know the Ellendale community and helping them with any problems or concerns that might arise.
“I want to make Ellendale a safe place to live, to bring up a family,” he said.
For two years, Warchol was the sole officer of the Ellendale Police Department, a historically small policing unit that was even temporarily dissolved for a year.
“We’re very big on community-oriented policing,” Warchol said. “It’s important to have someone [the residents] recognize to handle any problems they might have.”
Although Ellendale has a population of only about 400 people, a new housing development called Ingram Village could triple the town’s population over the next few years.
“With that amount of houses, the call volume is going to rise,” Warchol said, referring to the development’s proposed 233 single-family homes and 172 townhouses. “I want to be ready for it when it happens. I’m a big believer in being proactive rather than reactive.”
For now, Ellendale has low crime rates, mainly because of its small size, Warchol said.
Those crime rates are so low that the town recently was ranked as the safest of 36 Delaware towns and cities by movoto.com, a real estate blog that compiled data from the 2010 U.S. Census and the FBI’s 2012 Uniform Crime Report to determine its ratings.
“I’m very excited about it, understanding the way they gain their statistics and information,” Warchol said. “I do believe it is one of the safest places here.”
In his two years as Ellendale’s police chief, Warchol said he’s seen about 10 property crimes, 80 percent of which have been solved, and only a handful of domestic crimes.
In addition to VonGoerres’ hiring as a new part-time officer, the department has also recently installed two solar-powered radar speed signs on Main Street.
However, there’s not much to the department’s budget, Warchol said. The radar signs wouldn’t have been installed without the help of local legislative funding and Warchol is still working on funding sources to compensate VonGoerres, who will work patrol a couple days a week.
Last year, the department operated on about $52,000, Warchol said, adding that he is one of the lowest-paid officers in the state.
But it’s not the money that will keep Warchol or VonGoerres in their patrol vehicles.
“A police department can’t solve crime on its own,” VonGoerres said. “You have to work in a team effort with the community.”