The chief of the Little Rock Police 12th Street Patrol Division, which encompasses downtown, on Thursday highlighted the hard work of officers in the first three months of 2022, even as statistics showed the number of homicides in the area of the division had doubled in one year.
At the quarterly meeting, which was open to the public, Maj. Andre Dyer shared statistics from January 1 to March 28 that showed the number of violent crimes in his division had increased by 41% compared to the same period in 2021. .
Homicides increased by the highest percentage, from three murders on March 28 last year to seven this year, an increase of 133%. This was compared to a 33% increase in homicides in the city as a whole during this period.
The city’s latest available statistics go through April 11 and show a 12% increase in homicides in the city, while the rate in the 12th Street area reflects a 100% jump.
The increase “looks pretty bad,” Dyer said. “But I assure you that with the way things are going today, I think we are holding our own.”
In just over 27 years of policing, Dyer said he “has never seen it the way it is right now.”
In his view, Dyer said, there are a handful of repeat offenders causing trouble, particularly with homicides, and the department is focused on recruiting them.
On the same day as the quarterly review, Little Rock police reported arresting suspects in three separate homicides.
“The one thing we can’t always do is prevent these things from happening,” Dyer said.
Other violent crimes also saw increases in Dyer Division, such as robbery, which was up 46% over the same period a year earlier, and aggravated assault, which was up 42% .
It’s “extremely difficult” for police to stop people from getting firearms, which are typically used in serious assaults, Dyer said, because of the state’s lenient gun laws.
In Dyer’s opinion, he said, only tougher gun laws will help prevent the number of assaults they see. This leaves the police trying to capture the criminals after the fact.
Businesses can help themselves and the police by investing in quality surveillance cameras at their properties so that in the event of a theft, they can help the police identify suspects more easily.
The division had made progress in residential burglaries, with just 49 reported compared to 70 at the end of the first quarter of 2021.
Dyer attributed the change to the hard work of his officers.
“I’ve got five guys there doing the work of seven, but they’re not complaining,” Dyer said.
Labor has always been an issue, Dyer said, but he said it hasn’t had an effect on the division’s day-to-day operations.
The department as a whole is not fully staffed but currently has a high number of officers, which is about 2.5 officers per 1,000 citizens, Chief Keith Humphrey said. He compared this to a standard of 1.5 officers per thousand, but did not say where that number came from.
In 2019, the FBI reported that in cities with between 100,000 and 249,000 residents, such as Little Rock, the average number of law enforcement personnel per 1,000 residents was 2.1. The data did not indicate whether it included unsworn law enforcement personnel.
Including cities of all sizes, the national average was 2.9 per thousand residents, according to FBI data.
The 12th Street Patrol Division has 115 sworn officers, including 68 regular patrol officers.
Having a large number of dedicated officers patrolling the streets is a goal for the department, Humphrey said. In the past, he said, about 180 of all department staff were patrollers, but that number is now over 200.
“That’s our priority,” Humphrey said.
The other Patrol Divisions, North West and South West, will hold their own quarterly reviews at their respective substations in the coming weeks. As covid-19 restrictions are lifted, citizens can attend these meetings in person or via teleconference.