LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – After a violent weekend in Little Rock that saw two more homicides in the city, City Board members spent a chunk of Tuesday’s agenda-setting meeting discussing what could be done to curb the crime.
Directors may disagree on the specifics, but everyone at the meeting believed that something needs to be done – the question is just what.
Members proposed several potential crime-based ordinances that would tackle everything from caravanning to marijuana offenses, but the most hotly debated topic was what to do about youth violence.
With a string of shootings in Little Rock, City Directors took time Tuesday to go over ways to stop the violence, with everyone in agreement that now was the time to act.
“If we don’t do something different, how are we going to face our constituents?” said Director Doris Wright of Ward 6.
She offered up one solution – declaring youth violence a crisis in the city, and then enacting programming to solve it.
“We have had 18 murders among our youth,” Wright explained. “To me, that’s an issue.”
She proposes a violence prevention center and partnership with Arkansas Baptist College, whose research center has information on local violent crime trends. But other city leaders had their concerns.
Director Joan Adcock asked how this was different from the city’s youth master plan and asked what difference it would make.
“Just to say it’s a crisis and not to put anything behind it,” Adcock said, “it’s just going to be empty words up here.”
Others were concerned about funding for the proposal. Wright responded that the ordinance was a no-brainer, and she was actively taking steps to deal with a critical issue facing the city.
“You need to explain to all these people why you have all these questions about the death of young people,” she said to board members.
But hers wasn’t the only proposal curbing crime. Two other ordinances would crackdown on caravanning, a major concern for the city, and shift law enforcement focus away from misdemeanor marijuana ordinances, making it the “lowest priority”. That proposal was held off until May.
Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. took the opportunity to tie in his sales tax initiative, mentioning how funding for education and public safety could also help to stop the violence.
“This Rebuild the Rock sales tax actually compliments everything that director Wright has shared,” Scott said.
Speakers backed up the mayor’s claims, with chief education officer Dr. Jay Barth saying, “Early childhood education has a track record of really reducing violent crime in the long haul,” and LRPD Chief Keith Humphrey chiming in, “[We could have] the funding and the resources to look at this as somewhat of a public health issue.”
The caravanning and youth violence ordinances will be read for the first time at next Tuesday’s meeting.
You can read more about the issues HERE.