Kids & Opportunities POLICE RESPOND TO TEENAGE INCIDENTS
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.