Wrecks, drug ar­rests rise in 2016, stats show

■ Bella Vista re­mains one of the safest places in Arkansas.

The Weekly Vista - - News - KEITH BRYANT kbryant@nwadg.com

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.”

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