Little Rock city leaders addressed the spike in violent crime this year in the state's capital city at a forum Thursday night, even while acknowledging that talk is cheap.
"If we have nothing to show, meaning action, after we leave the meeting, we’ve wasted everyone’s time," Police Chief Kenton Buckner said during "Crime in Little Rock... a dialogue" presented by the Central Arkansas Library System at the Ron Robinson Auditorium.
"Our city has too many things going on for us to be meeting with nothing to show as a result of that meeting," Buckner said.
Violent crime in Little Rock has jumped sharply in 2017. The city has seen 45 homicides already, but made national news this summer for an incident in which 28 people were shot, but none died, during a shooting July 1 at the Pulse Ultra Lounge in downtown.
Buckner has instituted a mandatory overtime program to have an increased police presence in high-crime neighborhoods.
City Manager Bruce Moore told the crowd of approximately 150 that the city wants to expand the Street Intervention Team, which also focuses concentrated efforts in targeted, high-crime neighborhoods. He said the city has also engaged the non-profit group Our House to help at-risk, out-of-school youth develop job skills, and has a broad-based re-entry program to hire ex-offenders to city jobs.
But Mayor Mark Stodola said he's focused on the long-term challenges of how to improve the communities that make up the city.
"None of us up here are supermen, we don't know how to stop speeding bullets. So that's why when we talk about these long-term solutions, we know that we’ve got to change the culture. We’ve got to change that attitude about what is important in life," Stodola said. "The conversations I have in the streets with these kids is they don’t have anything to lose right now, so they want a job, they want something that is too valuable to lose."
The program was moderated by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Rex Nelson and was supported in part by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.