The city’s SAFE Team project has reduced crime in some areas by as much as 19 percent in 2014, Pine Bluff Deputy Police Chief Susie Powell said at a town hall meeting Monday.

The city’s SAFE Team project has reduced crime in some areas by as much as 19 percent in 2014, Pine Bluff Deputy Police Chief Susie Powell said at a town hall meeting Monday.


The first town hall since May — when Mayor Debe Hollingsworth decided to move from a monthly to a quarterly schedule — was heavy on practical information intended to inform residents about the latest laws and of the progress being made in several city projects. It was attended by about 100 people at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.


Powell provided statistics on the level of crime within all four of the zones that have seen one or more visits by the SAFE Team. The city’s anti-crime initiative — known as the Support Abatement with Fines and Enforcement — has been targeting neighborhoods shown to have the highest crime rates in the city since the summer of 2013.


The areas — given the military designations of Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta — are multi-block sections of town that representatives of city departments visit at the same time as a show of support to law-abiding residents and of resolve to those involved in criminal activity.


Alpha sector lies north and west of the Jefferson Square shopping center between Olive and Cherry streets from 23rd to 28th avenues.


Bravo sector is in the Central Park neighborhood between Hazel and Plum streets from 17th to 23rd avenues.


Charlie sector is just to the east of Bravo along Harding Avenue and Delta sector moves further west, between Hazel and Cherry streets from 23rd to 31st avenues.


"We go in to support those who are doing the right thing and to come down on those who are not," Powell said.


The SAFE Team includes the mayor’s office, the Pine Bluff Police Department, the Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Department, the Pine Bluff Street Department, the Pine Bluff Inspection and Zoning Department, Waste Management, the Jefferson County Clean Team, the Arkansas Department of Community Corrections and other volunteers.


"What we are asking for is cooperation from the community to bring their property up to code," Powell said. "If someone refuses to do so, then we will take it to the next level and issue them a citation."


Powell said that Alpha sector has seen a drop in its crime rate of nearly 20 percent since the beginning of the year. Bravo sector has seen a more modest drop of 3.2 percent in the same time frame, while Charlie sector has actually gone up by 6.4 percent.


"Charlie has always been the toughest area," Powell said. "Yes the numbers are up, but compared to what they used to be, this is actually a good thing. We’ve been pushing them hard in this area and what these numbers represent is them pushing back. We’re not going away. We’re going to keep pushing."


Powell said that Delta sector was first visited in August and year-to-date has seen a 19.4 percent drop in its crime rate.


"This is so great to see," Powell said. "After such a short amount of time, we see a drop like this."


Pine Bluff Police Department criminologist Matthew Pate discussed the importance of what are known as heat maps to crime fighting.


Pate showed the audience a map of the city with multi-colored patterns scattered across it.


"This looks a lot like a radar image of thunderstorms over the state," Pate said. "What you are looking at is actually a visual representation of every call for service responded to by the police department from January to October of this year."


The map depicted four hot spots in the city, characterized by dark reds and oranges with a black spot in the middle.


"Each of these visually represent the epicenter of the highest number of calls for service in the city," Pate said. "Together these four spots represent 9 percent of all police calls for service in the city year-to-date."


The spots were centered on the 3000 block of South Fir Street, the 1200 block of West 17th Avenue, the 500 block of West 27th Avenue and the 5500 block of South Olive Street.


In other business:


• Pete Lucas with Liberty Utilities said that a project to replace all 16,000 water meters in the city with new devices will begin shortly with the first phase set to install 3,300. Lucas said that the new meters have a digital readout and can be wirelessly accessed by meter readers. Each meter replacement should take between 15 and 20 minutes Lucas said. The first phase should be complete by the end of January 2015. There is no estimate on when the second phase will begin.


• Street department Director Rick Rhoden said that drainage ditches and catch basins must be kept free of yard waste to minimize flooding. Rhoden said that there have been several instances where multi-block sections of town have been flooded because homeowners threw yard waste into them. Rhoden said that leaves and other yard debris must be placed in trash bags and set out for pick up by Waste Management.


• Parks and recreation department Director April Layher said that the splash park adjacent to Saracen Landing on Pullen Street is close to completion. She said that there are still a number of things to complete before the entire project is finished. It will not be open to the public until Memorial Day weekend 2015. Layher said that a planned multi-purpose aquatic center remains in the conceptual phase.