FOP calls Little Rock Mayor Scott’s efforts on crime ‘too little, too late,’ endorses opponent
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. has been holding press conferences each Wednesday since Feb. 16 to discuss ongoing steps being taken to try and address a surge of violent crime in the city. But the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police is suggesting that “becoming concerned with crime during an election year is too little, too late,” and has endorsed Steve Landers in the race for mayor.
“This current administration has misled the citizens of Little Rock regarding critical issues that affect the safety of this city,” the FOP said Thursday night on Facebook. “The number of officers has declined during the tenure of this administration, while simultaneously the violent crime has risen by double digit percentages. The programs being touted as solutions to the ever increasing violent crime are programs that have existed all along and have not been utilized.”
There has been a clear split within the Little Rock Police Department, with Chief Keith Humphrey seen as a divisive figure who Mayor Scott has continued to support. The shortage of officers has led to many having to work overtime to ensure the department has enough officers patrolling the streets, spokesman Mark Edwards said in January. He noted that $10,000 signing bonuses would be offered during the following month for new officer recruits.
Over the past four weeks, Scott has spoken during his press conferences about efforts to be proactive in preventing crimes from occurring. That includes providing services for young people involving education, employment and a summer youth program.
Last Wednesday, Scott discussed providing mental health services through social workers and other community organizations.
“We’ve successfully negotiated various contracts to get money out on the streets quickly and begin programs that will help us address the systematic and root causes that cause crime as we take on this holistic approach.” Scott said.
He has also spoken about efforts to focus on proactive policing, while looking at prevention efforts. The mayor has repeatedly addressed a crack down on loitering as a way of keeping more serious crimes from occurring.
During the most recent press conference, data was shared on crimes so far this year. The number of homicides has increased 44% compared to the same time last year, with the most recent homicide taking place on Tuesday morning, Assistant Police Chief Wayne Bewley said Wednesday. The department’s clearance rate is currently over 69%, with the suspect in Tuesday’s homicide being captured and charged with first-degree murder.
“We’re showing a violent crime increase of about 17.96% overall when you look at all of the categories we report.” Bewley said.
Data showed incidents of first-degree battery and terroristic acts decreased from last year. In 2021, there were 28 first-degree battery incidents compared to 26 this year, terroristic acts went down from 41 last year to 38. The incidents combined went down a little over 7% from Jan. 1 to March 3.
Bewley said that the number of first-degree battery reports has risen by about 21% compared to last year, with 66 at this point in 2021and 80 now. Terroristic acts went from 95 last year to 131 now, which is a 37% increase.
Bewley said crime analysts have created a heat map to reflect the hotspots of battery and terroristic incidents in certain areas in Little Rock. The officers in those areas will be highly visible, he said, to serve as a deterrent.
“It allows our operations division Assistant Chief Crystal Young-Haskins and her group the opportunity to look at where these locations are and deploy resources in the area.” Bewley said.
Mayor Scott said the police department will continue to perform sweeps in an effort to suppress violent crime by reducing petty crimes. Scott did not give other details as he said Police Chief Keith Humphrey could not be there as he was taking part in a training with the FBI.
One sweep that Scott touted on Feb. 23 as having resulted in more than 100 violations was at a south Little Rock apartment complex. According to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the police action at Bradford Estates last month only generated one criminal citation, with 103 other violations being for the property itself.
Communication and Marketing Manager Spencer Watson told the newspaper that such sweeps encourage property owners to renovate their properties to create a higher quality of life and avert people from turning to crime.
Scott said last Wednesday that weekly meetings are being held by the department and city officials to evaluate steps being taken and discuss additional possible solutions to what the Little Rock Board of Directors recently declared to be a public health emergency.