LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Mayor Mark Stodola unveiled his six step plan to reduce violence and protect the community.
It's called, "LR for Life," a comprehensive violence reduction strategy and action plan for investing in the community.
This plan comes after the recent violence in the city, including the shooting at Power Ultra Lounge where 28 people were hurt.
The six steps are as follows:
- Stop the Violence
- Invest in Prevention
- Strengthen the Little Rock Police Department
- Promote Jobs, Opportunity, and Education
- Improve our Criminal Justice System
- Rebuild the Neighborhoods
Stop the Violence
The goal is to disrupt the violence before it begins. We could offer potential victims a way out of violence and aggressively prosecute the small percentage of those who keep shooting. The mayor says ways to achieve this would be utilizing violent crime apprehension teams, national public safety partnerships, requesting Department of Justice help, and stopping domestic violence. The mayor said this could also be achieved by having a group violence reduction strategy, ceasefire Little Rock, and multi-agency intelligence units.
The Little Rock Police Department's Violent Crime Apprehension Team started in February 2017. The team consists of 25 law enforcement officers who solely focus on apprehending the city's most wanted offenders and targeting violent hot spots.
Based on a release from the mayor, models from others cities that have seen significant reductions in shootings and killings in program target areas are up to 45 percent. CeaseFire Little Rock seeks to increase public safety and curb violence.
The city of Little Rock also joined the Violence Reduction Network in the fall of 2015. This National Public Safety Partnership gives the city access to not only the technical expertise and resources of the federal government but also to other cities across the U.S. The city has been invited to extend its participation in the VRN program for another year until September 2018.
The city has applied to the Department of Justice for three key grants to help amplify the work currently being undertaken by the LRPD. But the decision is expected to be made in September of 2017.
Invest in Prevention
The mayor says the city can't arrest our way out of this problem. "LR for Life" puts a heavy emphasis on helping our city's youth and their families succeed. Stodola recommends city prevention and intervention programs, mentoring, a gun safety coalition, youth master plan as well as conflict resolution training for city staff, a public awareness campaign and a citywide services dashboard.
Every year, the police force hosts a weeklong summer camp where police and students bond through outdoor activities and recreation. This year marked the 20th anniversary of the program and 115 students participated.
Strengthen the LRPD
A strong police force combined with the help from the community could prevent violence in our neighborhoods and quickly hold those who committed the crimes accountable, according to the mayor. He said he is going to enact aggressive recruiting citywide and regionally.
Mayor Stodola has directed City Manager Bruce Moore to immediately engage an advertising and public relations firm to deploy that effort. Progress is being seen. In August of 2017, 18 officers will become certified. Two additional classes are scheduled starting August 21 and November 21.
The city would offer recruitment and retention incentives. This included a $5,000 signing bonus for new recruits upon graduation from the Academy. Also up to $5,000 for those new officers living within city limits.
Officers who are already certified from other jurisdictions will be eligible for the $10,000 incentive package. Mayor Stodola is working with Moore to develop retention incentives to retain officers who are eligible for retirement.
The mayor also wants to start a "Gray Squad" and "Telephone Cadet Squad." While administrative work and answering calls for minor traffic accidents is important, the mayor said officers are best used on the street or solving cases. So the city is implementing a civilian squad equipped to handle low-level traffic offenses and administrative work. The city will target young adults with an interest in police work, therefore creating a pipeline of good, local police officer recruits for future Academy classes.
This step also encourages more community policing. The city is pushing more citizen participation in violent crime investigations by offering a new $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of suspects in any open homicide investigation to date.
Promote Jobs, Opportunity, and Education
Mayor Stodola said in order for people to succeed, they need a certain set of tools. In order to change the direction away from crime, they need to have a job. Under this step the mayor talked about summer youth employment program, re-entry employment program, career skills training programs, entrepreneurship training classes and a vacant lot maintenance program.
Improve our Criminal Justice System
Mayor Stodola convened a task force of criminal justice professionals. Their charge was to improve our criminal justice system: establish a domestic violence court, electronic monitoring of parolees, required video surveillance, aggressive federal gun crime prosecutions, ensure high bail for violent crime offenders and tougher witness intimidation and bribery statutes.
Rebuild the Neighborhoods
Blight threatens public safety, lowers property values and holds back our neighborhoods. Mayor Stodola said it degrades our quality of life. But by eliminating blight, we are revitalizing our neighborhoods. And the way he said we can rebuild is by fighting it, cleaning our streets, light up the city, expand the criminal abatement program, love your block, and more neighborhood watch programs.
Following a highly successful model in Detroit, Little Rock is launching a Neighborhood Safety Corps this fall. The Corps will utilize ten full-time and 20 part-time AmeriCorps members who will conduct safety assessments and home improvements; energy efficiency assessments and upgrades; and neighborhood and housing revitalization in seven target areas.
Whether it's upgrading playground equipment or installing park benches, residents generate a lot of ideas on ways to improve our neighborhoods. The city's Love Your Block program aims at promoting volunteerism by assisting neighborhood-based organizations in making public improvements to their neighborhoods. The city will award $28,000 in grants this year to help those improvement projects.
The mayor said we must understand one person alone can't solve all these problems. But by working together, using wise investments and implementing policies, we can succeed.
For more plan details, click here.