By Ray King
Pine Bluff Police have written over 100 citations for curfew violations since Sunday, according to Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant.
He said that people driving home from work or the store won’t get stopped but if people are hanging out on parking lots or in front of their houses, they are subject to a citation. The minimum fine for a curfew violation is $100.
At a meeting of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee Wednesday, Sergeant said 70 of those citations were written Sunday as officers chased groups of individuals from one side of the city to the other.
He said as the weather is getting warmed, more and more of what he called the “younger generation” are getting out and racing, burning tires and engaging in other illegal activities.
“In my 25 years in law enforcement I have never seen anything like what I saw,” Sergeant said. He went on to say that officers who confronted these groups were “outnumbered. We would deal with three or four and the rest would race to another location. We chased them all night long until they went to M.L.K. Park.”
“We closed the entrances and exits and issued citations for curfew violations to everyone as they left,” he said. “Some of the cars tried to drive over the railroad tracks (which runs beside the park.) We issued them tickets and towed their vehicles.”
Asked by Council member Joni Alexander where these activities took place, Sergeant said groups were hanging out at 28th Avenue and Fir Street, in the area of McDonald’s at Blake Street and the Martha Mitchell Expressway, on Olive Street, Port Road, West 13th Avenue and the Pines Mall.
Sergeant said plans have been developed to deal with any repeated activity but said he “didn’t want to talk about those plans.”
He did say that the department is looking at some of the places where groups are gathering and are approaching business owners at those locations, asking them to post no loitering signs, which he said the department would provide.
Sergeant said the signs would give officers the authority to deal with crowds on private property.
He also reported that there were a total of 254 crimes reported in April compared to 366 in April 2019, a more than 30 percent drop. The only negative aspect of the report was that there were four homicides last month compared to two in April 2019. Two more homicides have been reported in the first six days of May, bringing the total for the year to 10.
Those 10 occurred in eight separate incidents, Sergeant said, since two of the incidents were double homicides. Of those eight incidents, arrests have been made in six of the eight. Sargent described the incidents as “isolated. One may have been gang related, one was drug related, a few were of the domestic variety. There were different reasons so we can’t attribute them to a certain group of people.”
Committee Chairman Council Member Win Trafford asked Sergeant if he was in favor of changing the curfew hours, particularly since Little Rock has now changed theirs to midnight and Sargent said no.
“It needs to say where it’s at,” he said. “our position is not to change it.”