LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - The Little Rock Police Department says violent crime is going down, after the murder rate spiked during the first half of the year.
Mayor Mark Stodola made a point Tuesday morning of praising the Violent Crime Apprehension Team, or VCAT. He posted to Facebook that its members have arrested 565 people for 1,068 felony charges since the unit was formed in February.
“They were very proactive in what they were doing, rather than reactive,” said Lt. Steven McClanahan, a spokesman for the police department. “So, we tried to get one step ahead by looking at the data to see where crime was occurring.”
Stodola also posted that the officers on the team had seized 96 weapons during their arrests.
“They’re good numbers, and we are pleased with the numbers,” McClanahan said. “Especially the weapons off the street. That’s a win-win for the community.”
But he claimed that lots of changes are responsible for the reduction in crime. He pointed to the patrol officers who answer calls, a partnership with the US Attorney’s Office, and forced overtime as pieces that have contributed to a reduction in violent crime.
“Right now, we believe that’s successful,” McClanahan said of the overtime policy, which was implemented in August. “If you just look at violent crime, overall, we’re trending down. That’s what we want to do.”
While McClanahan stated the department’s efforts are paying off, he could not say if the decreases in crime rates are sustainable. He admitted that those rates could continue to decrease, or they could jump back up.
“And that’s so hard to predict, because if we could put our finger or our pulse on it exactly, we wouldn’t have violent crime,” he added. “It’s just impossible to predict when and where it’s going to occur.”
The key to maintaining lower levels of violent crime, McClanahan said, is the same thing the department has harped on for months, and which he said is also improving: cooperation from the community.
“It’s not just a police issue,” he stated. “We have to have the community. They need to be good witnesses, they need to tell us what’s going on, and they need to help us identify the people doing bad things.”
McClanahan said the VCAT will be a permanent part of the Little Rock Police Department. Forced overtime for patrol officers is temporary, but he said Police Chief Kenton Buckner is working on new plans to off-set the loss of manpower that will come with a return to normal schedules. Among them is a new recruiting class, scheduled to begin in November, which could have as many as 40 applicants.