Over the past several months, we have seen an escalation of violence in Little Rock.
Last weekend’s shooting of 25 people in the Power Ultra Lounge in downtown Little Rock brought the problem of violence in Little Rock into sharp focus.
In the days after the shooting, I decided it was time to ask whether there was a way that the state could assist Little Rock. The department is 70 officers short.
The Little Rock Police Department is working hard to stop the violence, but with its shortage, the department can’t respond to every complaint. The department needs additional resources to target, investigate and respond to the current threats.
In my conversations this week with the Little Rock Police chief, state and local law enforcement officials, and other community leaders, it was clear we can do more together. On Thursday, I announced the creation of a joint investigative group that will combine the strength of law enforcement at all levels to gather intelligence and target violent criminals.
Agents from the FBI, Arkansas State Police, Little Rock Police Department and Pulaski County sheriff’s office will work together on their joint investigative group.
In addition to this effort, the Department of Community Correction will provide more intensive supervision of parolees and probationers with known gang affiliation in the Little Rock area.
Finally, beginning this week, the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division will begin more closely monitoring Pulaski County establishments and enforcing closing times with a presence of an ABC agent to assure proper closing.
Leaders of the various agencies joined me to announce these initiatives at the capitol on Thursday. Diane Upchurch, special agent in charge of the FBI division in Little Rock, offered a word of warning for the criminals who are shooting up the streets: “We are here to take back the streets.”
The looming cloud of violence harms us all … not just Little Rock but the entire state. Little Rock is our seat of government and a center for tourism, medical services and economic development.
From my experience as a federal prosecutor, as director of the Drug Enforcement Agency, and as undersecretary with Homeland Security after 9/11, I know that the key to getting the bad guys off the street is cooperation across jurisdictions.
But I want to emphasize this is a matter for local law-enforcement that the City of Little Rock must solve. The outside agencies are here only to support as we are needed.
Local leaders have pointed out that this is more than a crime problem. This is about opportunity, hope, job training, education, mental-health treatment and investment in our youth.
I agree totally. But today the urgent need is to free our streets from the grip of violence. This is about identifying violent offenders and locking them up.
This joint investigative effort begins immediately.
A reporter asked me as to how we will measure success. We will know this initiative is successful when we can walk down our streets without fear.