Reported crime in Pine Bluff dropped almost 19 percent in February compared to a year ago, according to the monthly report from the Pine Bluff Police Department.
Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant, who was sworn into office a week ago, replacing retired Chief Ivan Whitfield, released the numbers Tuesday at the monthly Coffee with the Chiefs, sponsored by Interested Citizens for Voter Registration and held at First Assembly of God Church.
“We had 278 crimes reported in February compared to 343 in February 2017, or an 18.95 percent drop,” Sergeant said. “We've got a good thing going, and I applaud the men and women who are out there doing the work.”
Looking at crimes against property, both commercial and residential burglaries declined last month from a year ago. There were six commercial burglaries compared to 10 in February 2017 and 39 residential burglaries last month compared to 47 in February 2017. Reported thefts also dropped from 100 in February 2o17 to 80 last month. Reported car thefts stayed the same at 13.
In terms of crimes against persons, there were no murders reported in February, and there has been just one since the beginning of the year. At this time last year, three murders had been reported. Robberies dropped from 12 in February 2017 to six last month, while rapes and attempted rapes increased from three in February 2017 to five last month.
Aggravated assaults went down from 37 to 24, while simple assaults also declined from 120 to 105.
Sergeant also talked about his plans for the department, including continuing a program that began last May under Whitfield in an effort to get guns off the street.
“The Violent Crimes unit is tasked with dealing with violent criminals and they have been very successful,” Sergeant said. “They have taken more than 125 guns off the street, plus a lot of drugs and arrested a bunch of people.”
He said the department is currently working with the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office and Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter to bring Project Safe Neighborhoods back to the city. That is a program that focuses on gun-related crimes and prosecutes offenders in federal court, where they can receive longer prison sentences with no possibility of parole.
“We're still very early in that,” Sergeant said.
Among other things, Sergeant said he likes to give his deputy chiefs and supervisors the ability to lead their various divisions, adding that he sets high expectations for them and expects them to find solutions to problems that come up.
Sergeant said people have told him that he is always smiling, and he admitted that he is “a happy guy.”
It's an attitude he wants to carry over to the men and women of the department.
“We're going to have fun, but we're also going to do the job,” he said.
Another part of doing the job is to “find officers with the right skill set, experience, knowledge and ability and put them in the right place to be successful,” Sergeant said.