Pu­laski County lead­ers fo­cus on crime

Nur­tured chil­dren, vig­i­lant cit­i­zenry are keys, speak­ers say

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - RYAN TARINELLI

Lead­ers from across Pu­laski County gath­ered Mon­day morn­ing to dis­cuss crime and the so­ci­etal is­sues they said can lead to crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

The group also spoke about pos­si­ble so­lu­tions while ac­knowl­edg­ing the chal­lenge of pre­dict­ing vi­o­lent crime.

“It is very very dif­fi­cult to an­tic­i­pate when some­body is go­ing to get into a dis­pute, in one fash­ion or an­other, and pull out a gun and shoot some­one,” Lit­tle Rock Mayor Mark Stodola said at the meet­ing, which was held at the Wil­lie Hin­ton Neigh­bor­hood Re­source Cen­ter.

Dar­rell Mont­gomery, a North Lit­tle Rock School Board mem­ber who or­ga­nized the meet­ing, said he wanted to bring to­gether au­thor­i­ties from across Pu­laski County to have an open con­ver­sa­tion about crime and some pos­si­ble steps for­ward.

“[Crim­i­nals] don’t re­spect ju­ris­dic­tional lines,” he said at the meet­ing.

Some at­ten­dees pointed to the im­por­tance of early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion, while oth­ers sup­ported more re­sources for pro­grams for school-age chil­dren.

Maj. Carl Min­den of the Pu­laski County sher­iff’s of­fice spoke about the pos­i­tive im­pact sports and other af­ter-school ac­tiv­i­ties can have in pre­vent­ing a child from fall­ing into crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

He said it’s also crit­i­cal that com­mu­ni­ties help nur­ture chil­dren, start­ing at a young age. By the time law en­force­ment gets in­volved later in their lives, Min­den said it can often be too late.

Stodola said that while crime has been on the minds of many Lit­tle Rock res­i­dents re­cently, crimes rates are down com­pared with the 1990s.

In 1993, around 27,000 to­tal crimes oc­curred in the city, he said.

But in 2015, there were only about 15,600 to­tal crimes, and of­fi­cials ex­pect only a small per­cent­age jump when 2016’s re­sults are com­piled, Stodola said.

Stodola also spoke about car break- ins, urg­ing res­i­dents to lock their ve­hi­cles and re­move any ob­jects of any value.

“Don’t leave it there — peo­ple leave their keys in there; they leave their wal­lets in there; they leave their com­put­ers in there,” he said.

It’s often youths or young adults who are re­spon­si­ble for those crimes, he said.

Lit­tle Rock po­lice hope to ad­dress car break-ins and other prop­erty crimes through neigh­bor­hood- watch pro­grams and by hav­ing po­lice teach res­i­dents how to be more vig­i­lant in their com­mu­ni­ties.

At the meet­ing, Lit­tle Rock of­fi­cials also out­lined the city’s ef­forts to curb vi­o­lent crime, point­ing to the Po­lice Depart­ment’s in­volve­ment in a fed­eral anti-violence pro­gram.

In 2015, Lit­tle Rock joined the Violence Re­duc­tion Network, a U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice pro­gram that pro­vides train­ing and fed­eral re­sources to par­tic­i­pat­ing cities.

The of­fice of the U.S. at­tor­ney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, based in Lit­tle Rock, an­nounced ear­lier this month the in­dict­ment of 41 con­victed felons on fed­eral charges as a re­sult of the fed­eral anti-violence pro­gram. The in­dict­ments in­cluded in­di­vid­u­als who were “among the worst of the worst crim­i­nals in Pu­laski County,” the U. S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice said.

Bryan Grif­fith, as­sis­tant to Stodola, also brought at­ten­tion to a newly cre­ated unit within the Po­lice Depart­ment aimed at pre­vent­ing vi­o­lent crime.

Be­tween Feb. 4-20, the Po­lice Depart­ment’s Vi­o­lent Crimes Ap­pre­hen­sion Team made 29 ar­rests that re­sulted in 38 felony charges, 32 mis­de­meanor charges and 68 traf­fic charges, ac­cord­ing to the depart­ment.

The unit also re­cov­ered 11 weapons and four stolen ve­hi­cles in that pe­riod, ac­cord­ing to the depart­ment.


Chris Gib­son (front) and James Selvey, both with Spring­dale’s Park and Re­cre­ation Depart­ment, in­stall net­ting Mon­day for bat­ting cages at the Tyson Sports Com­plex in Spring­dale. The net­ting is stored for the win­ter to pro­tect it from se­vere win­ter weather. The cages are open to the pub­lic when teams aren’t us­ing them.

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