HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. - There's a police department overhaul in the works for a part of Arkansas long known for corruption.
The police chief in Helena-West-Helena announced some major improvement plans for the force during a press conference Tuesday. They are aimed at better tracking crime and making cases more transparent to the community.
Chief Uless Wallace doesn't hold back when it comes to the department's past fallbacks. He openly admitted during the press conference that they've lost case files and evidence and it has kept police from solving cases. But now after scoring a roughly $108,000 grant, the department's implementing a new system to turn things around in Helena West Helena.
Down the street from the Helena-West-Helena police department is the Plaza Barber. Owner Skeet Seaton says he's got good back-up from his neighbor.
"If I ever have an alarm go off, whether it's two o'clock in the morning or the weekend, when I get here, there is always a police officer here waiting," Seaton said.
But Police Chief Uless Wallace feels his department can do better in the community, a lot better.
"A lot of cases we were losing; it's because we were not tracking evidence properly, a lot of it was not stored properly," Chief Wallace said.
On Tuesday, the chief announced a new system to modernize the force, moving from cabinets of case files to computer-driven data.
"This system allows us to enter it in to where it leads from police officer to dispatcher from the dispatcher to the courts, there's really no room for error of losing anything," Chief Wallace said.
Dispatchers will ditch Microsoft word-based logs for more advanced call entries. The department rolls out online crime mapping in January.
"You can sit in your house and pretty much know that the guy that lives two doors down is possibly is a registered person or has done something violent," Seaton said.
They are changes that haven't started "buzzing" at the Plaza Barber. But Seaton thinks they will in the long-run.
"I think it will definitely dampen the crime in the area because they will be more aware of what's taking place most of the time and they can be on top of it," Seaton said.
Tuesday's announcement actually comes one year to the week of Operation Delta Blues annoucement. That was the major drug and corruption case, indicting some 70 people, including Helena-West-Helena police officers. As that investigation continues, Chief Wallace believes that some of their new efforts now could help federal authorities make more arrests.
Chief Wallace says his department will also get to network better with other law enforcement around the state with this new system, which is set to be fully operational January. And all of it comes from a grant from the Delta Bridge Project, which works on various investments projects in Phillips County.
HWHPD Press Release
Helena-West Helena (H-WH) Municipal Police Department is proud to announce the launch of a Public Safety Automation and Modernization project that will radically transform the police department.
The project was funded in part through a $107,800 Delta Bridge Project Grant. Relativity, Inc., a Jonesboro, Arkansas based company, has been chosen as the provider.
Due to the city's high violent crime rates and the limited ability of the H-WH Municipal Police Department's paper crime reporting system, the need for improved operations has become increasingly critical since the police department first began pursuing this project more than four years ago. The current level of crime in H-WH presents one of the largest barriers to community revitalization. In response, the H-WH Mayor's office, Police Department and the Delta Bridge Project have implemented the Relativity Public Safety (RPS) System to securely and efficiently track all aspects of police work.
The project consists of a data quality audit, software installation, training, and process consulting. The consulting aligns the department's goals, processes and procedures to maximize the utilization of the scarce personnel and financial resources. The components include Computer Aided Dispatch, Offense/Incident Case Management, Warrant, Evidence and Collection Management. The project will be fully functional by the beginning of 2013.
The new RPS system is capable of also including mobile operations, court automation, Sheriff's office, and Jail operations. Hence, the H-WH Mayor's Office, Police Department, and the Delta Bridge Project anticipate the Court and Sheriff's Department will obtain funding in the near future to expand the project to provide a full-circle public safety information system for Phillips County.
"The implementation of this computer based reporting system will lead to systemic changes within our department," said Chief Wallace of the H-WH Municipal Police Department. "It's taken us four years to get here, so we are very excited to begin improving our reporting systems and processes to better our service to the public."
Equipping local law enforcement with needed technology is a key goal in the tourism section of the 2010-2020 Phillips County Strategic Community Plan. The Delta Bridge Project is a community-led effort unifying citizens to spur development in the Delta region. It has helped leverage over $105 million in new investments for Phillips County, Arkansas. The Delta Bridge Project is managed by Southern Bancorp Community Partners, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that supports comprehensive community-based economic development.