Little Rock mayor addresses uptick in violent crime
As the crime rate in Little Rock continues to increase, Mayor Frank Scott Jr. is introducing several measures to try and address the problem. In particular, he hopes to stem a rise in homicides by providing services for young people.
Scott held a press conference at City Hall on Wednesday to discuss steps being taken. It comes after the city Board of Directors passed a resolution earlier in the month declaring gun violence a public health emergency. Scott said efforts are being made to reduce violent crime.
“The men and women of the Little Rock Police Department has a close to 80% capture rate,” Scott said. “What that means is when you commit crime in Little Rock, we will catch you. What that means is that not only will we catch you, we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of our ability as we work with our local, state and federal prosecutors.”
Scott said one way to combat the rise in crime is through helping younger generations. According to the mayor, there were 64 homicides in 2021 and 54 in 2020, with the majority of those involving people between the ages of 11 and 24.
“We have teenagers who have access to AK-15, teenagers who don’t understand conflict resolution, teenagers who have fallen into a lack of resources whether it’s education or wraparound resources, and we have to address those root causes to prevent that teenager from accessing an AK-15,” Scott said.
The city must continue focusing on proactive policing, Scott said, while also working on intervention efforts for young people. He announced the creation of a HOPE Advisory Council to address the systemic causes of violent crime. Scott also detailed plans for a summer youth program to provide young people with jobs, education and more resources.
Police Chief Keith Humphrey said the department is focused on precision policing which is when police and community members are focused on working together to address problems like gun violence. He also said more collaboration is being made among those within the department.
“Discussions are being had in briefings before the officers go on the streets,” Humphrey said. “They’re happening between command staff, sometimes on a daily basis, sometimes four or five times a week, sometimes during multiple times during an hour we’re talking about what we’re doing and what are the trends,” Humphrey said.
Through those trends, Humphrey said he found various reasons that contribute to violent crime such as a lack of conflict resolution, social economics, lack of education, or a lack of job training.
Humphrey said several community events will be held soon such as "Pastries with a Cop," a city cleanup including young people, and an gathering intended to create a dialogue between members of the community and the department. He hopes citizens will be encouraged to share their suggestions about how to reduce violent crime.
Members of the Little Rock Board of Directors approved resolutions on Tuesday with 10 organizations which are intended to address crime and community violence. Michael Sanders with the Office of Neighborhood Safety said this will help people who need specific resources.
“This gives us an opportunity to have some experts in the field and to collaborate with businesses who are already doing the work and now we can actually refer those individuals to those much-needed services,” Sanders said.
Some of those services include conflict resolution and anger management, hospital-based intervention, and mental health and wellness. Funding will come from the city’s share of the American Rescue Plan Act. The contract will run from March 1 through Feb. 28, 2023.