Crime and Public Safety

When it comes to crime, Little Rock deserves better.

The statistics tell part of the story. Homicides, aggravated assaults, and total violent crimes were at a 10-year-high in 2017. Sadly, 2017 was not an anomaly. Little Rock’s crime rate has consistently been among the highest for medium-sized American cities and the number of violent crimes committed per capita is worse than in Los Angeles, New York, Houston, or even Chicago.

Behind those numbers are real people. As I’ve visited neighborhoods throughout our city, I’ve heard far too many tales of lives disrupted or destroyed by crime. Even those who aren’t direct victims of crime feel its impact. Not only does our high crime rate make our residents feel unsafe, it deters investors and entrepreneurs. This harms our economy and makes the pressing task of revitalizing our disadvantaged neighborhoods even harder. Little Rock will simply never achieve its immense potential without deep, sustainable, and citywide reductions in crime.

It starts with strong city leadership that takes an innovative and collaborative approach to enforcement and prevention. Ambitious and transparent crime reduction goals are critical. But they must be accompanied by a commitment to rigorously and continuously measure progress towards those goals and a demand for real accountability when they’re not met. While the LRPD will always play a critical and central role in reducing crime, a safer city is not the responsibility of police officers alone. Just as we are all impacted by unacceptably high crime rates in Little Rock, we all have a role to play in creating the kind of city we want to live in.

 

ENFORCEMENT

No plan to slash crime in Little Rock will succeed without an empowered, innovative, and accountable LRPD. That is not the case today. For too long, the police force has suffered from low morale due to inadequate pay and insufficient resources to do their job. As mayor, I will provide something that has been lacking for too long: a vision and tangible plan to meet the current and future needs of our police force. It will include:

A fully staffed LRPD Effective law enforcement is proactive, not reactive. Yet for years officers have been forced to work in a perpetual crisis mode environment due to persistent vacancies in the LRPD. This must change, and as mayor I will ensure there is a constant and aggressive push to keep LRPD fully staffed. While this is important today, it will soon become even more pressing as large numbers of officers enter retirement.

Community policing-plus Community policing works, and it will be the cornerstone of my efforts to reduce crime. But I also believe that both policing and critical community-police relations are best when officers are not viewed as hostile outsiders. Which is why I want to incentivize officers to live in the communities they serve. I also want to find ways for young people who are interested in pursuing careers in law enforcement to serve the neighborhoods where they grew up. This will both increase community trust in police while providing officers powerful and very personal motivation to safeguard the well-being of their neighbors. I also believe that our police force should look like the city it represents. Currently, the LRPD is 64% white while the city as a whole is only 46% white.

Collaboration and accountability More than 200 cities across the country have successfully established citizen review boards to provide grassroots accountability of their police departments. These boards are independent panels composed of regular citizens who are empowered to review citizen complaints regarding police actions. While these boards establish a neutral, objective vehicle for analyzing complaints, they also can become a forum for building trust and exchanging ideas. When citizens and police officers work together, everybody benefits.

Smarter policing How police officers spend their time is almost as important as the total number of officers. I will launch an in-depth analysis of whether LRPD has the right number of officers budgeted for the city’s current needs, but I also want to make sure our current force is being utilized in the most efficient and effective way. For example, we should continue the efforts toward having “traffic only” police in order to free up officers to focus on more important community policing efforts.

 

PREVENTION

Vigorous, smart law enforcement must be supported by prevention efforts that leverage existing city resources and provide greater opportunities to those most likely to commit crimes. As mayor, I will always have a zero-tolerance attitude towards those who commit crimes. But I will be equally zealous about preventing crime by providing leadership in these areas:

Improved collaboration Departments across the city government should work together far more closely to help prevent crime; a lack of mayoral leadership has led to a status quo that squanders available resources and misses opportunities to meaningfully reduce our crime rate. Better communication and data sharing is an obvious place to start. For instance, abandoned homes are a breeding ground for crime. LRPD should be holding weekly meetings with code enforcement to identify potential problem houses so officers can intervene before issues arise. LRPD should also be working closely with city departments and local non-profits to identify at-risk individuals in an effort to provide job training or placement, after-school programs, and other programs that can proactively prevent crimes.

Better partnerships Cities around the country have effectively prevented crime by implementing Ceasefire programs. These are evidence-based collaborations between local, state, and federal partners that use proven tactics and strategies to prevent violent crime.

A focus on at-risk youth Young people choose to commit crimes when they have no direction, options, or good role models. While strong families are the best antidote to crime, the city can help by deploying its resources to create environments and opportunities that encourage young people to make good choices. As mayor, I will work to build pipelines that send young people to school or jobs rather than prison.

More resources for re-entry and parole The city should do more to support people as they come out of prison. That includes creating access to wraparound case management support systems that can move people from re-entry to productive, rehabilitated lives. Likewise, parole officers play a vital role in preventing crime. Like the understaffed LRPD, parole officers today are overextended and asked to handle responsibilities well beyond their purview. As a start, we must reduce the caseloads of parole officers so they can focus on the important job of assisting those who have been incarcerated with reentry into society. Recidivism is a big problem, and parole officers who have reasonable caseloads can help prevent it. I also believe we should pair parole officers with community health workers who are better trained at helping those who are leaving prison to find employment and housing. This will lift some responsibilities from our parole officers so they have the time they need to do their jobs.