A new era begins in Pine Bluff law enforcement as John Howell is sworn in as police chief this afternoon. However, will it help Pine Bluff turn the page on high crime?
Chief John Howell has a lot of work ahead of him. There were 17 homicides in 2005, that's up from nine in 2004, making 2005 the highest crime rate year in Pine Bluff. Howell says success will come, if the citizens and police work together
After 33 years with the state police it's been a while since John Howell has made a first impression. I'm glad to meet you.
But on his first day as Pine Bluff Police Chief, he took the opportunity let them know they have a police chief who cares. “The department cares, and we'll do everything we can to help a city of 55,000 struggling with rising crimes and budget cutbacks.”
When 20 officers were let go in 2004, the crime rate shot up to a record of nearly 10,000 crimes last year. Howell says citizens have to trust and respect police and want to help. “We cannot do it all. We have to have help of from the citizens of Pine Bluff. They have to be willing to talk to us. I think that's been a problem in the past. Money will be an issue too.”
Howell wants improvements to buildings his officers work in. “I know we need help with some of the buildings we're in right now but I also know Rome wasn't built in a day and things won't change in a day either.”
So he takes it step by step, as a start
“If I can ever help you, I'm down here at the police department, alright? I think some people have the tendency to give up on this city. I'm not going to. I won't let the officers give up. Pine bluff can rebound. And we can make the streets safer for everyone.”
He won't promise more officers, he has to wait on resources. He will live outside of the city, but is committed to the job.