Despite the fact that reported crime in Pine Bluff is dropping, the perception of many citizens is that it’s not, and that’s something Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant wants to change.
At a meeting of the Pine Bluff City Council’s Public Safety Committee Wednesday morning, Sergeant passed out a copy of the latest crime stats as he asked council members to look at the comparisons between numbers from 2017 and this year.
“There has been a drastic decrease in robberies,” Sergeant said. “Aggravated assaults are down. Simple assaults are down. Overall crime is down.”
Specifically, there have been 83 robberies reported during the first nine months of this year, compared to 143 for the same period in 2017. Aggravated assaults dropped from 444 in the first nine months of 2017 to 321 this year, and simple assaults decreased from 1,563 to 1,109. Overall crime for September was 7.37 percent below the figure for September 2017.
“The overall perception in the community is that crime is up and it’s not,” Sergeant said. “It’s down. We’re on a downward trend.”
A part of the problem is that there have been 17 homicides so far this year, along with a number of shootings. And while the 17 this year is below the 28 recorded last year, Sergeant said they are doing all they can to reduce that number even further.
To change the perception, Sergeant said the department will be using social media, specifically a Facebook Live session, beginning at 11 a.m. today.
“I’m going to answer the concerns of the community,” he said. “Give them information the community needs to know.”
Sergeant said members of the community may submit their questions, and he will respond to them the following week.
Also on Wednesday, Sergeant addressed some of the things his department is doing to reduce crime.
“A couple of Saturdays ago, we partnered with the Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Community Corrections and the Sheriff’s Office,” he said. We’ve identified an area between 18th and 31st, from Olive to Hazel, as the location of a lot of violent crime, and there were 31 additional officers who helped us out patrolling that area.”
He said the additional manpower paid off as activity in the area, particularly traffic, halted after a few hours.
“That’s something we’re going to continue to do,” Sergeant said. “We’re also planning some other things with Community Corrections for parolees and probationers, and we’re going to go after people with felony and misdemeanor warrants. We’re going to put pressure on those people who commit crimes.”
Alderman Bill Brumett, who is a member of the committee, noted that the Sheriff’s Department has put their surveillance tower on Olive Street, and Sergeant said even when there is no one in the tower, cameras are running and it can be monitored remotely.
“The reconstituted Violent Crimes Task Force is in that area, and they’re supplemented by vice and narcotics detectives. Our traffic officers are also working in that area, and they’re also stopping in at businesses to assure people that they are out there,” Sergeant said.
Brumett said it is important to get people involved, particularly by providing information about criminal activity and those responsible.
“We’ve got incidents where we know who did it, but we don’t have enough evidence to file charges,” Sergeant said.
He also mentioned the department’s annual walk against domestic violence, which is scheduled for Oct. 16 beginning at noon at the Civic Center.
Mayor Shirley Washington said attendance at the annual walks has increased, adding that she would like to see more people get involved.
“Awareness is critical,” Washington said.