Editor, The Commercial:
The residents of the Westside community in Pine Bluff have concerns about the handling of the notification of the escape of prisoner, Timothy Buffington, from the Randall L. Williams Correctional Facility on Saturday, June 21, 2014. During the day of Mr. Buffington’s escape, there were residents outside of their homes (e.g., families sitting outside including elderly residents, children playing outside), without any knowledge of the escape.
When several members of our Westside Loop Neighborhood Watch found out about Mr. Buffington, we began to call as many community residents as we could to alert them of the situation (to go inside and stay inside, lock their doors, notify 911 of any suspicious activity). Neither the Department of Correction or the Pine Bluff police notified the majority of our residents about what had happened.
We highly recommend that they set-up an alert system to notify residents who may not have access to a telephone or who may not receive notification through the television in a timely manner. For example, we did not see any information about the escape of Mr. Buffington on local television stations until very late in the evening, around 9 p.m. A more effective method for our community would include members of the Pine Bluff police department and the Arkansas Department of Correction collaborating and going through the community with a bullhorn.
Also, the DOC could install a siren system on their grounds (similar to tornado sirens) to alert us of an escape. We hope that you can encourage them to develop a better protocol before something tragic happens to our residents due to a prison escape.
We can be reached by telephone (870)-692-6874 or (870) 489-8503.
Diane M. Whitaker
Westside Loop Neighborhood Watch