After several months of work in a 30-block neighborhood, police and city officials are moving on, and pointing to the success of the effort.
“Crime numbers are down over 60 percent and what we did was not complicated,” Interim Police Chief Jeff Hubanks said. “We spent a little time and effort, low-tech stuff and it worked.”
The SAFE team concept was applied between Olive and Linden streets, from West 23rd Avenue to West 30th Avenue, and statistics compiled by the police department reflect on its success.
From January to April, there were 264 reported residential burglaries in Pine Bluff, only five of those in the SAFE team area and no commercial burglaries in the area. Seventy auto thefts were reported citywide for the same period, one of those in the SAFE team area.
Other glaring numbers included 20 reported simple assaults in the area out of a total of 601 citywide, and just one robbery out of 58 citywide. Of 21 reported rapes and attempted rapes in the first four months of the year, just two were in the target area, and no homicides were reported in the area.
In addition to police, the team consisted of members of the fire department as well as inspection and zoning officers.
Speaking during the recent Coffee with the Chiefs program, sponsored by Interested Citizens for Voter Registration, Mayor Debe Hollingsworth described the concept as “exciting.
“We went in and designated houses that needed to be demolished, knocked on doors and talked to the community, picked up paper, cleaned out ditches and identified the hot spots that we need to go in and take care of,” Hollingsworth said.
She said the city has purchased paint and Americorps workers are “going around painting over gang markings” as a part of their duties.
“We want those down immediately,” Hollingsworth said. “This is our turf, not yours.”
Hubanks said the area will now be turned over to Neighborhood Watch groups to keep an eye on, and the department is also working with church groups including one on the east side of town led by the Rev. Milton Jenkins.
At the recent Town Hall meeting, Deputy Police Chief Susie Powell said the effort will move to a new area, West 17th Avenue to West 23rd Avenue, between Olive and Linden streets.