From Kathy Wells, President of the Coalition of Greater Little Rock Neighborhoods
To CGLRN from Pres. Kathy Wells:
Chief Stuart Thomas of the LR Police Dept. discussed new patterns of crime with members of the Coalition of Greater LR Neighborhoods yesterday morning, and pointed to more officers, cars and cameras coming soon. Mayor Mark Stodola dropped by to contribute to the discussion, and urged pressure on legislators to keep thieves in state prison longer. Both lamented the lack of probation and parole officers, and criticized state officials for not making good on the promises two years ago to expand these workforces. The mayor urged citizens to press prosecutors to be more aggressive in cases of a felon in possession of a firearm. Dir. Ken Richardson of Ward 2 also spoke. Both agreed the city was arresting those with prior records, in most cases.
Richardson urged resources be devoted to assuring there is a job for those who want one, and food to eat. He reported young women were now committing crimes and getting arrested for robberies the same as young males 20 years ago, so officials should create policies the fit that reality. He called, again, for a systemic policy that provided various types of help for a family at risk, in need of the basics. Teens growing into adulthood need continued attention, he said.
Thomas noted crime crept westward as the city grew in that direction, and the mobility of cars means they move all around, even to nearby cities and back. Some are holding up nearby pizza parlors, he added, which was not previously the case – robbers once were careful not to commit crimes close to home. Everybody is up all night nowadays, so robbers follow the population into all the hours of the day, he said. Another fresh pattern is the rise in the secondary crime – passing a stolen credit card onto to another thief, which defrauds a shop using this.
Asked about declining population in the Capitol View-Stifft Station neighborhood, where unrelenting burglaries have resulted in owners fleeing elsewhere, leaving behind vacant houses that soon attract transients, fires on cold nights, and burned-out structures that spiral downward into a decline, Thomas said his new resources in manpower and equipment would be applied there. He’s hiring away certified officers from other departments, putting them on the streets faster than new recruits, Thomas said. He promised visible patrols in the area.
An Arkansas Democrat Gazette reporter attended, and her story in today’s paper began:
LR crime patterns shifting, 15 told
By Chelsea Boozer
LITTLE ROCK — With more staff members and increased video surveillance, police hope to target the unpredictable crime patterns that have developed in Little Rock, Police Chief Stuart Thomas told a group of concerned residents Saturday.
“Traditionally, a lot of robberies — particularly at convenience stores and fast-food [restaurants] — were late at night. Now those seem to attract [robbers] just about any time of the day,” Thomas said at the January meeting of the Coalition of Greater Little Rock Neighborhoods.
The rest of the story is on 1 B of the Democrat Sunday.
Thomas said the general perception of more violence than ever does not hold up in the records. In fact, he said, violent crime is down for 10 months of 2012, compared to the same time in 2011. Property crimes are up, and officers cannot keep up with that chase, Thomas said frankly. He noted detectives are arresting more workers robbing bosses using insider knowledge, and called for more rigorous background checks on job applicants.
Specific steps a citizen may take today focused on continuing vigilance in daily routines. Thomas maintained citizens deter criminals when they are alert, aware of surroundings, and take those basic precautions we know – not going alone, keeping to lighted areas, keeping cars empty, locked, and purses and IPads off seats, keys out of car ignitions, and selling goods on auction websites like EBay, instead of Craig’s List, where a meeting occurs. Robbers are seeking victims with IPads and the like to sell and setting up meetings in unsafe places, he added.
Citizens can press for better security where they shop, the chief continued, and ask for cameras on parking lots, especially grocery stores, which attract purse snatchers, as well as keeping posters off front windows that may screen robbers from view, hindering police.
Neighborhood cameras provided by neighborhood groups are welcomed, Thomas said, and technology allows those images to be store online in the “cloud.”
Thomas and Stodola together discounted use of a Reverse911 system, a technology that enables authorities to call every phone in a territory with a recorded notice of a chemical spill, a prison break or other major safety threat. Bless their hearts, policemen cannot break the habits ingrained by the profession, and let much information out to citizens. Their solutions call for more resources for the department, so they deliver protection to citizens themselves. So uncomfortable did they become when pressed to take citizen information and transmit this back out to the community, Thomas dragged up mention of the 600 sex offenders his agency munities in the city. No one raised concerns about new offenses being committed by those registered offenders; their nuisance to the agency is moving and not telling police the new address, Thomas said.
It remains up to neighborhoods to operate their own alerts by the traditional Telephone Tree, or the newer email blasts, or Twitter. Forbidden Hillcrest is the most famous in operation today, and it has achieved a lot of timely alerts to its subscribers.
Thomas did outline plans to add 50 cameras overlooking public intersections and areas, and said he welcomed citizen suggestions on locations. Send an address for a camera to Thomas at:
The department is updating its website, and the upgrade will enable to visitor to contact the department by email, and submit a question or suggestion – like where to put a camera.
Stodola noted these will be mobile, and officials expect to move them around the city, to oversee problem areas, and deter criminals.
In other business, Treas. Karen Walls sent a report of a balance on hand totaling $355.87.
Dan Scott of NLR city government attended and complimented the Coalition for its citizen action over the decades. He said his bosses were interested in fostering closer citizen/city links, and would study what the Coalition does, to use its work as a model.
The group planned to take the next step at the Sat Feb. 9 session by inviting legislators to attend and discuss remedies from the state budget for parole officer positions, and the prison budget. The Coalition will also research felon in possession of a firearm cases and outcomes.