LITTLE ROCK -- The head of Little Rock Police Department's Southwest Division gave a recap of 2021's crime totals in the area and talked about the effect of covid-19 on his command in a quarterly report Thursday night.
By the end of the year, crime was up in that division compared with the city overall, Maj. Sidney Allen said, with violent crime up 28% and property crime up 23% from the year before.
The city overall saw a 12% increase in violent crime and a 10% increase in property crime in the same period, which Chief Keith Humphrey in December attributed to hard work from his officers to chip away at a peak violent crime increase of 22% in May 2021.
The Southwest Division covers 44 square miles of the city and accounts for 28% of the city's population, according to statistics provided during Thursday's presentation. The Northwest Division covers a similar 45 square miles, but serves 48% of the city's population. The 12th Street of Downtown Division covers 33 square miles and 24% of the population.
In the Southwest Division, the most common type of call for service in the last quarter of 2021 was a disturbance, with 1,544 calls, followed by accidents, with 1,049. There were 435 shots-fired calls in that quarter.
There were 20 homicides in the Southwest sector in 2021, compared with 18 in the previous year. Rape was also up, from 49 to 59. Aggravated assault jumped from 1,049 to 1,370.
As with the rest of the department, officers in the Southwest Division were dealing with the effects of the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, Allen said.
Initially, officers were concerned with bringing the virus home to their families from work and infecting them, he said, but with the recent arrival of the more-infectious omicron variant, the reverse has started to happen.
Now, it's more common for officers, who are required to wear masks and work in a building that is frequently sanitized, to contract the virus from friends and family outside of work, Allen said.
Allen did not specify how many of the 90 officers and five civilian personnel working in the division had or have had covid, but he said that the division has a contingency plan involving calling in officers who do not usually work patrol shifts for that task.
However, the contingency plan would go into place only if 10% of the division's 70 patrol officers were sick with the virus at the same time, and that had not happened yet, Allen said.
The spread of the virus "is not affecting our ability to respond to calls for service," Allen said.
In the division, the average response time for a call is nine minutes, Allen said.
Humphrey on Thursday commended his officers for adapting to the conditions of the virus and filling gaps left by officers out sick.
"[When] one person goes down, the next person steps up," Humphrey said.
He said he feared that omicron marked a third wave of the virus in the state, but hoped not.
Also on Thursday, the number of Arkansans hospitalized with the coronavirus hit 1,640, setting an all-time high for the third day in a row. The state has also set several records for new cases in the past two weeks, although Thursday's 11,160 new reported infections represented a dip from 14,494 the day before.
Allen wrapped up the quarterly review by touting several officers who had earned Life Saver Awards, including officer Dakota Faircloth, who was shown performing CPR on an infant who was having difficulty breathing in a body camera video shared by the department on social media earlier this month.
Allen said that sometimes he thinks citizens have a negative image of the Southwest Division.
"We don't see that negative image when we look at the work our officers have done," Allen said.