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City leaders address recent violent shooting crimes in central Arkansas

"What we need now is not only to continue to support and enhance the resources for our officers. We also need more community involvement."

ARKANSAS, USA — Recently, more violent crimes have happened across central Arkansas. Last week, just a day apart were shootings involving Little Rock Central and North Little Rock High School. 

This past weekend, 13 people were shot in Pine Bluff. Two people were killed after what was supposed to be a festive time during UAPB's homecoming weekend. 

City leaders are adamant about tackling violence.

Little Rock Mayor, Frank Scott, Jr. announced the Violent Crime Reduction Plan as a new comprehensive approach to reducing violent crimes in a press event Wednesday morning.

"Little Rock, just like many cities around the country is enduring a substantial increase in violent crime. Most of that has been related to domestic related issues and youth and young adults. I'm angered and saddened by the senseless shootings," said Mayor Frank Scott, Jr.

He says the hope is to allocate more of the American Rescue Plan funds amounting to $1.5 million to reduce crime in the coming months. 

The board will be proposing an additional increase for Little Rock police officers in the 2022 budget. 

They'll also propose an incentive increase from $5,000 to $10,000 to recruit and retain numbers in the department. 

"What we need now is not only to continue to support and enhance the resources for our officers. We also need more community involvement. We also need everyone to join in. If you see something, say something," said Mayor Scott.

He said they're going to be using money from the $1.5 million dollars to bring in community violent intervention specialists.

"We plan to also facilitate the provision of social services to crime-prone individuals willing to take advantage of them. In any city violent crimes are caused by a combination of social, structural, and environmental conditions," said Humphrey. 

Kevin Hunt, Sr. would know all too well about what chief Humphrey means. 

The ex-gang member once incarcerated now focuses on the work of helping those behind bars reclaim a life away from crime. He also frequently speaks to at-risk youth to deter them away from a life of crime. 

By showing them examples from his own life, he pushes for young people to understand the ramifications of violence.

"I tell them, 'These are things that people do that's involved with gangs and when you do this these are the things that happen to you once you're involved with those gangs,'" said Hunt.

The motive behind recent shootings isn't confirmed to be gang related, but Hunt said he's worried for teens and young adults surrounded by violence.

"If you're involved with gangs that covers a lot of things. That covers a lot of crimes and if you're involved with crime then you increase your chances to be imprisoned or to be killed at some point and time."

Ten months after the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office sought to initiate a program to combat youth in gangs, they're a few weeks away from the federal grant award solidifying almost a year's worth of preparation.

The Gang Reduction Initiative of Pine Bluff (G.R.I.P) seeks to focus on suppression, intervention, and prevention to deter at-risk youth from gang activity. 

They're utilizing faith-based churches, community organizations, and schools to collaborate on targeting kids, teens, and young adults.

"The committee has met routinely up until this point. We continue to do those meetings until we get an award notification and whatnot. We've been successful in our award efforts," said Jefferson County Sheriff, Lafayette Woods.

He said the federal grant would be for over a quarter of a million dollars.

Ryan Watley with Go Forward Pine Bluff is asking for nonprofits to get involved by making an effort to invest in the youth. 

They're soliciting proposals for anyone currently working with youth or has a desire to work with youth.

"Get these kids involved in those extracurricular activities. So, if you're doing a program where it's after school or engaged in the schools we want to be able to help your capacity to serve the youth," said Watley. 

Guidelines for proposals to expand youth programs can be found on their website. the deadline to apply is November 12, 2021.