Violence in Little Rock this year draws comparisons to the early 90s when homicides reached record highs.
It was nearly 25 years ago when HBO chose our capital city as its filming location to investigate the violence in its documentary, “Bangin’ in Little Rock.”
In a special report Fox 16’s Tyler Thomason catches up with a gang-banger from that time period and the filmmaker who is considering a return to The Rock.
Bullets pierce a Little Rock neighborhood in the early 90s.
The audible violence plays as a soundtrack to that era.
Leifel Jackson remembers it well.
“I was standing out there. As a matter of fact I was the one doing most of the shooting,” Jackson said. “He was picking up my shells off the ground.”
The footage comes from “Gang Wars – Bangin’ in Little Rock.”
Nearly 25 years ago this HBO documentary pointed cameras where gangsters pointed guns.
“I slept with a gun, I used to take a bath with my gun right there,” Jackson said. “I had guns throughout my house.”
It was a time when homicides dominated headlines, and the Pulaski County coroner might have been the busiest man in the state.
Jackson was a member of the Crips, which is described as one of the most dangerous gangs in Arkansas.
Here he is in the HBO film.
“We got some guys riding through that’s from the other side,” Jackson said. “They may not be hostile. They may be hostile. So we take cover and get prepared.”
Here he is now…
“Here we sit. The same thing is happening,” Jackson said.
After nearly 9 years in prison for drug trafficking, Jackson has turned his life around.
He works in downtown Little Rock at a career services center and has spent countless hours mentoring youth through various program.
While Jackson has made a 180-degree turn since the early 90s, he fears violence in Little Rock is approaching a 3-60.
“We went back there. After a while all of the prevention and the intervention programs that helped stop the violence back in the 90s,” Jackson said. “After a while, it got laxed.”
In fact – new numbers shine a spotlight on a disturbing trend–48 homicides reported this year. The homicide rate in the capital city hasn’t been this high since—creeping closer to that tragic amount of 70 in 1992.
Staggering statistics that once again have captured the attention of the filmmaker behind that documentary “Bangin’ in Little Rock.”
“We’ve actually discussed whether we should come back,” Marc Levin said.
That’s producer, director Marc Levin speaking to us on Skype from his office in New York.
Little Rock’s surge in deadly violence this year is déjà vu for Levin.
“It is a surprise, Levin said. “It’s sad. I know how deep-rooted these issues are.”
Levin and his crew did a “Banging’ in The Rock Part 2,” where they actually profiled Jackson’s mission to end the violence and get gangs off the streets back in 2004.
Levin realizes that a third return to The Rock wouldn’t exactly excite city officials, but he and Jackson both agree, the HBO cameras just might help re-focus certain efforts.
“You can’t hide from this, if we come back and do a documentary…the shootout in the club was in every newspaper in the country,” Levin said. “So, there’s no hiding from it.”
“By doing Bangin’ in Little Rock, they brought awareness,” Jackson said. “With that awareness there came in resources. If HBO comes back and does a piece, I’m thinking it’s going to bring more awareness. People are going to see it. People will start reaching out.”
While speaking to Levin and Jackson – both men offered ideas to help attack the crime crippling our city.
If Levin does come back to shoot another film, actions today might determine the plot.
“It’s not to run away and hide, deny. It’s to take it on and say ‘Ok, we’re going to be at the forefront trying to figure out how to make our community better and show other communities how to deal with that.'”
Tyler Thomason asked Jackson”How close are we as a city to returning to the days of “Bangin’ in Little Rock?”
“Four months ago, I may have said that we were right on tune that it wasn’t going to be long,” Jackson said. “But I have to commend the work of everybody coming out. The walks, the victory over violence, just the media really coming out and getting involved. I’m very optimistic that we’re not going to make it there. We may have turned a corner.”
Filmmaker Marc Levin has also done similar documentaries in Chicago, Baltimore, and Newark, New Jersey.
No word yet if a return to Little Rock is confirmed, but we do know Levin is considering it.