Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Lynn Kutter

PRAIRIE GROVE — Prairie Grove police have ar­rested sev­eral ju­ve­niles in the past cou­ple weeks for theft, break­ing or en­ter­ing a ve­hi­cle, crim­i­nal mis­chief or cur­few vi­o­la­tions, ac­cord­ing to the last week’s police re­port is­sued by Capt. Jeff O’Brien.

The lat­est re­ports of van­dal­ism and other prob­lems started the night of May 7 when the con­ces­sion stand at Ri­eff Park was van­dal­ized, most likely by teenagers, police say. The ju­ve­niles broke a win­dow to get into the con­ces­sion stand.

The sus­pects did not take many items but did a lot of dam­age dur­ing the time they were in the build­ing, ac­cord­ing to Larry Oel­rich with the city of Prairie Grove. Dam­ages were $150 for the broken win­dow and $350 for de­stroy­ing a DVR and mon­i­tor.

The ju­ve­niles took a few bags of chips and soda.

That same night, the police de­part­ment re­ceived mul­ti­ple re­ports from res­i­dents in nearby Prairie Meadow sub­di­vi­sion that their ve­hi­cles had been broken into and items stolen. O’Brien said ve­hi­cles were not locked and items taken mainly were e-cig­a­rettes and ran­dom cash.

The video from a res­i­dent’s sur­veil­lance cam­era showed four young males in the area, but they could not be iden­ti­fied be­cause they were wear­ing sweat­shirts or jack­ets with hoods.

Most of the re­ports in the past sev­eral weeks have come from peo­ple who live in Sun­downer Es­tates sub­di­vi­sion.

To re­spond to the car break-ins, Prairie Grove Police De­part­ment paid over­time so that two of­fi­cers could con­duct ex­tra pa­trols of Sun­downer Es­tates by bike and foot over a re­cent Satur­day night. The of­fi­cers tracked two boys in the neigh­bor­hood to a house and they spoke with an adult who de­nied the boys had been any­where.

The next morn­ing, police re­ceived re­ports of ve­hi­cle break-ins in Sun­downer. Footage from a sur­veil­lance cam­era showed the boys were out in the neigh­bor­hood and police cited them for vi­o­lat­ing the city’s cur­few or­di­nance.

The next night, an of­fi­cer on pa­trol saw a teenage boy out af­ter cur­few and pur­sued him on foot, caught him and cited him for flee­ing and other charges.

Then May 27, police ar­rested two teenage boys who had jumped the fence at Prairie Grove Aquatic Park, ap­par­ently gone swim­ming in their un­der­wear in the pool and left a threat on a bath­room mirror.

O’Brien said police thor­oughly searched the wa­ter park that night to make sure ev­ery­thing was safe.

Police Chief Chris Work­man said he would not de­scribe the teenage van­dal­ism and break-ins as a crime spree, not­ing all towns deal with the same prob­lem with ju­ve­niles.

“You get a group of kids to­gether and they de­cide to go out in a big neigh­bor­hood,” Work­man said.

The dif­fer­ence, he noted, is that Prairie Grove has been able to ar­rest kids for some of the in­ci­dents.

“It’s just kids and op­por­tu­ni­ties is what I call it,” Work­man said. “There’s crime ev­ery­where and if you make it eas­ier for kids, they are go­ing to do it.”

Posts of so­cial me­dia in Prairie Grove make it ap­pear there’s a “whole lot more” crime go­ing on than there ac­tu­ally is, Work­man said.

Prairie Grove police, though, do not take the re­ports lightly, which is why, Work­man pointed out, over­time pay was ap­proved for ex­tra pa­trols.

In ad­di­tion, said Sgt. Tim Stan­difer, pa­trols are sat­u­rat­ing neigh­bor­hoods dur­ing the evening and early morn­ing hours to look for any po­ten­tial prob­lems.

Prairie Grove has 12 of­fi­cers but not all are on pa­trol, Work­man said. Two po­si­tions are ad­min­is­tra­tive and when an of­fi­cer has to go to court or take sus­pects to the county de­ten­tion cen­ter, that takes one per­son away from the city.

As the city grows, the police de­part­ment will need ad­di­tional of­fi­cers to be able to cover the com­mu­nity, Work­man said.

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