While Little Rock’s homicide rate for 2019 has now exceeded last year, the city’s police chief is touting the number of cases cleared. On Wednesday he sat down with reporters to talk about the issue.
The Little Rock Police Department reports that, as of Wednesday, it had investigated 40 homicides this year, an increase of eight percent from last year. Chief Keith Humphrey says 80 percent of those cases have had a suspect arrested and charged, compared to the national average of 62.5 percent.
"Although we have a high clearance rate, our clearance rate of homicides [is] way above the national average, that still doesn’t make me happy because I would like it to be zero percent homicides in our city," Humphrey said. "I would prefer there not be any violent crime, unfortunately that’s not going to happen."
Humphrey was sworn in as Little Rock police chief eight months ago, coming from Norman, Oklahoma. In that time he has drawn conclusions about the cause of murders in the city.
"I believe we have a problem with conflict resolution. I just believe that a portion of our community does not understand the importance of knowing how to disagree with each other, and then it goes to the level of violence."
Humphrey said in 70 percent of the homicides, the victim knew his or her killer in some way. He is asking Mayor Frank Scott Jr. and supervisors in the police department and elsewhere in city government to consider whether a program can be developed to raise awareness of how to settle disagreements.
Humphrey also said a better job can be done enforcing gun laws.
"I don’t believe in infringing upon people’s Second Amendment rights, however, I do believe… there’s some things that we can do. Case in point, if you have someone who has been diagnosed with an extreme case of mental illness, I think there should be restrictions there. I definitely think if you have someone who has a violent criminal history, there should be some restrictions there," Humphrey said.
Recently acquired ballistic imaging technology is helping the department track guns used in crimes, Humphrey said. Federal grant money funded the purchase of a National Integrated Ballistic Information Network machine that connects to a federal database which compares shell casings taken from crime scenes.
But also important, he said, is the older police practice of allowing people to make anonymous tips regarding crimes. Eight homicides in Little Rock this year remain unsolved and Humphrey asked anyone with information to contact the department. All eight of those victims were shot, he said.