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Little Rock officials target loitering as precursor to violent crime

Daniel Breen
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. was joined by city officials Wednesday for a press conference at City Hall.

The Little Rock Police Department is cracking down on loitering as a way of preventing more serious crimes in the city.

Mayor Frank Scott Jr. on Wednesday gave an update on the ongoing efforts to combat a rise in violent crime. Speaking with reporters at City Hall, he said police and fire crews have conducted “sweeps” of locations with the most complaints of loitering.

“We know there are particular areas of the city where loitering happens, and shortly after the loitering happens, crime happens," Scott said. "So we’ve been laser-focused on how we address those businesses, those apartment complexes, those particular stores by addressing certain issues.”

The mayor says a sweep conducted at the Bradford Estates apartment complex last week uncovered more than 100 city code violations. Officials say businesses could face fines if no progress is made on loitering issues.

Scott says the city is working to hire more social workers to work with the police department, as well as more members of a team that works more closely with the community.

“For many, many years we’ve had a team of street team members that are working to combat violence, prevent violence by working to understand what’s going on in various neighborhoods, what’s going on within our city to prevent crime from happening,” Scott said.

He says the city is also working to process a number of contracts for about $2 million worth of violence reduction proposals from community groups. Despite efforts to combat it, Assistant Police Chief Wayne Bewley said violent crime continues to be rising in Little Rock.

“The numbers will reflect that from Jan. 1, 2022 through Feb. 21, 2022, this year versus those same dates in 2021, our violent crime is up a little over 35%. Particularly, homicide in that same period of time is up 42.86%,” Bewley said.

Bewley says police have made arrests in six out of the 10 homicides that have occurred so far this year, which is below the national average clearance rate of about 64%. Scott says the city is also seeking to hire more mental health specialists within the police department.

“Starting in 2020, the City of Little Rock and the Little Rock Police Department hired its first social worker to help… to reduce the number of calls they’re responding to that have more to do with mental and social wellbeing issues," Scott said. "We’re grateful that we have started that process of building a team of mental health and social workers.”

Scott says the city in December received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to go toward hiring more social workers to work with the police department.

Daniel Breen is a Little Rock-based reporter, anchor and producer for KUAR.