Little Rock community leaders alarmed by spike in violent crimes

Crime

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Many residents say they have seen a surge of violent crime in Little Rock in recent days, including multiple shootings in less than 24 hours.

Documents from the Little Rock Police Department show that the capital city has seen a 21 percent increase in violent crimes for the first three months of 2021 compared to the same time a year prior.

Yellow tape crossing off crime scenes became more common across Little Rock in 2020, and some Arkansans like Rev. Benny Johnson, founder of Arkansas Stop the Violence, say things need to change.

“It’s very, very frustrating, you know, to see this, and it’s very heartbreaking, especially to see the homicide numbers that are going up,” Johnson said. “A lot of the times I don’t even know some of the families. I help bury a lot of these young men. One was 17 years old.”

His local non-profit has been focusing on youth and taking a stand against violence since the 1990s, and he said he’s seen the burden these homicides have on families.

“When you go and killing people, you don’t know what or how you’re detrimenting the family and we got to solve our differences other than violence. We can talk things out,” Johnson said.

The new numbers from the LRPD compared the first three months of 2021 to last year show a 63 percent increase in homicide offenses, a 52 percent increase in forcible rape and a 22 percent increase in aggravated assault.

There is also concern that the city will see more record-breaking numbers in the coming months, and the reverend hopes talking about these numbers will help change things.

“It’s getting warm too, when it gets warm, you know that’s when it’s going to escalate, and I’m going to tell the city we need to come together,” Johnson said. “It’s going to take faith-based organizations, it’s going to take the city, it’s going to take the police department in a collaborative effort.”

When asked for comment about the new data, officials with the LRPD declined and said they have had this discussion before.

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