By Ray King

Reported crime in Pine Bluff dropped more than 14 percent in July when compared to July 2019, according to the latest report from the police department.

At a meeting of the city council’s Public Safety Committee Wednesday, Chief Kelvin Sergeant said there were 440 crimes reported in July 2019 compared to 376 crimes reported in July 2020.

Looking at the numbers, there were significant drops in three of the four crimes against property categories, specifically commercial burglaries, residential burglaries and thefts. Commercial burglaries dropped from 21 in July 2019 to 7 last month while residential burglaries fell from 42 in July 2019 to 15 last month. Reported thefts also went down from 184 in July 2019 to 124 last month.

The only category in the crimes against property that showed an increase was motor vehicle thefts which went from 24 in July 2019 to 45 last month.

In the crimes against person category, there were two murders in July 2019 and in July 2020 and through the first six months of 2019, 16 murders were committed, one more than have been committed during the first six months of this year.

Seven rapes or attempted rapes were reported last month, three more than were reported in July 2019. The numbers were reversed for reported robberies, 7 in July 2019 compared to 4 last month. Aggravated assaults and simple assaults both showed slight increases with aggravated assaults going from 40 in July 2019 to 46 last month and simple assaults increasing by 10 from 116 to 126.

Through the first six months of this year, there have been 2,150 crimes reported, compared to 4,361 crimes for the same period in 2019. That’s a difference of just over 2,200 less crimes.

Sergeant was asked if raises that police officers received this year had help or hurt the department and said he had not met any officer who did not appreciate the extra money. However, the raises took effect in January and the pandemic and then protests about social injustices began, affecting the image not only of the department but policing nationwide.

Sergeant said that has resulted in some applicants being afraid to take the job because of the negative effect the police have on parts of the community.

A viewer to the virtual meeting asked Sergeant about the problem of drag racing on weekends and what is being done to curtail it. He said officers assigned to swing shift patrol are working an extra two hours and officers assigned to the graveyard patrol shift are coming in two hours early. Officers assigned to the Traffic Division are also working during the evening.

“We’re making arrests, writing citations and towing vehicles,” Sergeant said. “The problem is the jail isn’t taking misdemeanors and the citizens are aware of that. They’ve started paying the tow-truck drivers on the scene to release their vehicles at the scene.”

He said the sheriff’s office has been assisting and said he has spoken to the Arkansas State Police.

“In the upcoming weeks we will have another option,” Sergeant said.