Increases in aggravated assaults and simple assaults pushed the monthly reported crime rate in Pine Bluff up by less than one percentage point last month compared to May 2017, according to the Pine Bluff Police Department.

Meanwhile, a significant drop in residential burglaries was seen during May.

For the month, 425 crimes were reported to police — four more than were reported in May 2017 or a .95 percent hike. This was the first reported increase this year after four months of double-digit declines.

Totals for the year, however, continue to show reported crime in Pine Bluff is down significantly compared to the same period in 2017. For the first five months of last year, 4,696 crimes had been reported compared to 1,749 for the first five months of this year. That works out to 2,947 less reported crimes — a 62.76 percent decrease.

Looking at crimes against persons, there were 52 aggravated assaults reported in May compared to 39 in May 2017. Simple assaults went from 136 in May 2017 to 161 last month, and reported robberies went up from nine a year ago to 12 last month. Rapes and attempted rapes declined in May, going from eight in May 2017 to five last month.

There were two murders in May, one more than was reported in May 2017. For the year, there have been six murders reported so far while through the first five months of 2017, 11 had been reported.

During the monthly Coffee with the Chiefs, sponsored by Interested Citizens for Voter Registration and held at Trinity Lutheran Church Tuesday, Pine Bluff Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant touched on the increase in violent crimes and steps the department has taken to combat them.

He said that after a couple of weeks of drive-by shootings and other violent activities, the command staff held an emergency meeting and made the decision to expand the number of officers assigned to the Violent Crimes Task Force, an action that has resulted in more gun-related arrests and fewer reports of random shootings.

Sergeant said that normally this time of year, a number of officers who are assigned to the Patrol Division, as well as other divisions, would be working the PAY (Police and Youth) Camp, which began Monday, but this year that didn’t happen.

“They’re working with a skeleton staff because we needed the officers on the street,” he said.

While crimes against persons increased, property-related crimes declined, particularly in residential burglaries, which went from 63 in May 2017 to 33 last month. Commercial burglaries increased from 11 to 13 while reported thefts dropped from 128 in May 2017 to 121 last month. Reported motor vehicle thefts stayed the same with 26 a year ago and 26 last month.