Wrecks, drug arrests rise in 2016, stats show
■ Bella Vista remains one of the safest places in Arkansas.
Traffic accidents and drug arrests were up last year, according to statistics compiled by the Bella Vista Police Department, but call volume stayed about the same and animal complaints dropped significantly.
Traffic accidents, according to the year-end report, numbered 554 in 2016, a significant increase from 420 in 2015. All prior years show between 411 and 483 wrecks. 2016 had 12.8 percent more traffic collisions than the previous high score set in 2013.
“We are experiencing more traffic volume up here,” Capt. Tim Cook said. “But I wouldn’t think it would affect that number that much.”
The statistics also include a breakdown by intersection. The most significant increases were at Benton County 40 (McNelly Road) and U.S. Highway 71, which had 24 collisions, roughly four times the typical number of accidents based on numbers from 2014 and 2015; Oldham Road and U.S. 71, which saw 40 wrecks, or 45.4 percent more than its average accident load from 2010 to 2015; and Pinion Drive and U.S. 71, where there were 11 accidents, about three times it’s average accident load from 2010 to 2015.
Increases weren’t limited to the interstate. Arkansas Highway 340 saw 61 accidents, while it averaged 46.5 per year from 2010 to 2015, peaking at 54 in 2013. Arkansas 279 had 34 accidents last year, which was even with its previous high in 2013, but still above its 2010-to-2015 average of 30.3.
Despite the higher number of accidents, there was only one fatality. Based on the report, Bella Vista averaged 2.57 traffic fatalities per year from 2010 to 2016, while one is the number that came up most frequently.
Cook said it’s important to consider safe practices, including safe following distances and driving at the proper speed.
Traffic enforcement, he said, can help, but it can be difficult to find time to just sit and watch traffic.
While overall call volume for 2016 came in at 19,310, very similar compared to 2015, when it ended at 19,551, the calls are different in nature, he said.
“What you do see is an increase of calls that take more of the officer’s time,” he said.
Traffic accidents, for instance, require an officer to be on scene for a significant amount of time, as do sex offenses, domestic disturbances, drug crimes and warrant arrests, which did increase in 2016.
Warrant arrests, he said, are typically related to court issues — people not showing up for court dates or failing to pay fines and costs, for instance.
“A molehill in the criminal justice system can turn into a mountain,” he said. “Once a judge orders you to do something or you have a court date, you need to show up.”
The Bella Vista Police Department made 565 warrant arrests in 2016, up from 228 in 2015. The average from 2011 to 2015 was 343.
Drug offenses also increased. Data shows that the Bella Vista Police Department saw 124 drug related incidents in 2016, up from 85 in 2015. From 2013 to 2015, the department saw a significant drop in drug incidents, ranging from 74 to 85 annually, while 2016’s number is consistent with 2011 and 2012, which saw 121 and 123 incidents, respectively.
Cook said this is the result of a combination of factors.
“I do think drugs is an issue that is continuing to grow in our area,” he said.
While domestic disturbances were up to 263 for 2016, above the 2011-to2015 average of 221.4 per year. But while disturbances were up, assaults were down to 59 in 2016, compared to 80 in 2015 and a 2011-to-2015 average of 64.6.
Cook attributed this in part to the department’s policy of assessing victims of domestic violence and getting them in touch with resources to help their situation. The department’s domestic violence coordinator, he said, is detective Mike Kugler, who follows up with victims after the fact. Because people have so much on their mind at the time a domestic disturbance happens, he said, following up can get helpful information to them when they can actually focus on it.
While more calls are taking up more of officers’ time, he said, the department will have more personnel — including three officer positions that have been approved in the city budget — and may be able to perform more proactive work in 2017.
“Even with these stats,” Cook said, “we’re one of the safest cities in Arkansas and America.”