Pine Bluff Police Chief Jeff Hubanks got a round of applause Thursday when he told members of the West Pine Bluff Rotary Club that reported crimes in the city were down 18.3 percent last year compared with 2012.

Pine Bluff Police Chief Jeff Hubanks got a round of applause Thursday when he told members of the West Pine Bluff Rotary Club that reported crimes in the city were down 18.3 percent last year compared with 2012.

"People in the rough or bad areas are starting to see a difference and people in other parts of town are seeing a difference," Hubanks said.

He said the reduction is important because it improves residents’ perceptions of safety, and that’s something the department wants to build on.

"When people fee safe, it makes them want to invest in the community," Hubanks said. "If they don’t feel safe, they’re going to vote with their feet and move someplace where they do feel safe.

"If we can keep that going, maybe the site selectors will find the city attractive enough to bring the jobs back and once that starts, there will be no stopping it," Hubanks said, referring to the city’s efforts to attract businesses.

In addition to reported crime being down, Hubanks said citizen complaints against officers were down more than 30 percent last year.

"These people stepped up because they want to do the job," he said. "Everybody that becomes a police officer is an idealist. They want to help people. They want to do good."

Hubanks said payroll is the largest item in the department’s budget and the best way to ensure that the officers do their job is to "let them do what they do," and not micromanage them.

From mid-2011 to the end of 2012, Hubanks said the department lost approximately 50 officers.

"That’s one-third of the force and to replace one-third of the force, you have to spend crazy money to train them," he said. "It’s scary the percentage of officers who have less than two years and when I came back, one of the first things I did was to increase the training, starting with mandatory training and then moving on to the initiatives we wanted to implement."

Looking at specific numbers, there were 16 murders reported in the city last year, two fewer than in 2012. In addition, there were three homicides that were not classified as murders.

Last year, Hubanks predicted that the number of murders would drop significantly, a prediction that he said Wednesday was "bold.

"My own people told me I was full of (expletive) but last year we had far fewer of the drug-fueled territorial-style murders than we did in 2012 and more of the type of murders you find in a healthy community," Hubanks said, explaining that those types of murders would include slayings that occurred during fights or domestic disputes, or during the course of commission of another crime.

Looking at some of the other 2013 final numbers, there were 71 rapes or attempted rapes last year, 27 more than in 2012, and reported robberies increased from 141 in 2012 to 153 last year.

Both simple assaults and aggravated assaults decreased, with simple assaults dropping from 439 in 2012 to 390 last year, and aggravated assaults dropping from 2351 in 2012 to 1891 last year, or 460 less.

In terms of crimes against property, commercial burglaries decreased from 247 in 2012 to 199 last year while residential burglaries dropped from 900 in 2012 to 892 last year.

There were 875 fewer reported thefts (3,141 in 2012 and 2,266 in 2013) while reported motor vehicle thefts increased from 194 in 2012 to 222 last year.

According to a separate report, traffic division officers investigated 878 accidents and patrol division officers investigated 810 accidents that occurred on city streets and highways last year. Traffic officers wrote 1,091 citations that resulted from the accidents and an additional 4,066 citations on non-accident related incidents, plus an additional 2,976 warnings. Patrol division officers wrote 802 accident-related citations, 2,118 non-accident related citations and 756 warnings.

"We’ve done some studies on where the most accident-prone intersections are and we’ve started enhanced enforcement at those intersections," Hubanks said Wednesday, adding that for much of 2013, the traffic division had just three officers. There are now seven assigned to that division.

The patrol division wrote more than 10,500 reports last year while responding to 19,579 calls for service

During Thursday’s Rotary Club meeting, Hubanks was asked about the bike patrol, which he described as "a P.R. machine.

"The people love it but the bad guys hate it," he said.

The bike patrol office is located on Cherry Street. Shortly after the unit was activated, officers found that a brick had been thrown through the windshield of a police car parked at the office.

"There used to be an apartment complex across the street but that complex is now vacant," he said. "We’re not going to be pushed out of anyplace."

Hubanks also said patrol officers are now parking their cars in prominent shopping areas like Jefferson Square and others and going in o the various businesses to introduce themselves to the owners and employees and let them know that if they have problems, they can contact the officer about those problems.

"That’s a key to community-oriented policing," he said.