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Little Rock mayor says more needs to be done to attract, retain police officers

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Daniel Breen
/
KUAR News
Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey speaking at a press conference Wednesday at City Hall.

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. says while the city is experiencing a drop in crime, more needs to be done to address the root causes. During a press conference Wednesday, he credited the decline to a multi-faceted approach.

“We have this dual approach of proactive policing and prevention efforts that are focusing on the root causes of crime to prevent it and change a lifetime of generations,” Scott said.

The mayor said he has requested the city's Board of Directors allocate more federal funds from the American Rescue Plan to go toward crime prevention and reduction efforts.

At his press conference and the State of the City address on Monday, Scott proposed a salary increase for entry-level police officers. He noted the city is increasing sign-on bonuses from $5,000 to $10,000 and a 2% raise for officers.

“We have to continue to remain one of the highest paid police departments in the state of Arkansas, but not only be competitive in the state of Arkansas, but across the nation,” Scott said.

The mayor said the police department needs additional 911 dispatchers to answer calls more quickly and decrease police response times. Scott said the city is also looking to add four social workers to try and limit having officers responding to people having mental health issues.

In the near future, Scott said the city will announce the members of the Holistic Outreach and Prevention in Each and Every Neighborhood (HOPE) Council. The group will provide recommendations on how to address crime. Scott also said the city will have a community meeting on Monday at 6 p.m. at the Second Baptist Church.

Police Chief Keith Humphrey said the city has had 16 homicides so far this year, with two occurring last week.

One was early Saturday morning at Pizza D’Action restaurant and bar at 2919 W. Markham Street. Humphrey said it occurred following an altercation between a doorman and a customer. He said officers are looking for a suspect.

“Speaking with the detectives we are confident we will identify the suspect in this horrendous act,” Humphrey said.

On Sunday in the 5700 block of Patterson, officers responded to an incident where someone was pronounced dead in their vehicle. Humphrey said investigators can't share many details on the case as they are waiting for the victim to be identified.

He said the department has seized 181 weapons so far this year and has made 141 gun-related arrests. Gun crimes in the city are being referred to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice.