One third of 2022 Little Rock homicides involved domestic violence, chief says

Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey talks about measures taken in response to violent crime during a news conference with Mayor Frank Scott Jr. on Wednesday. More photos at
(Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)
Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey talks about measures taken in response to violent crime during a news conference with Mayor Frank Scott Jr. on Wednesday. More photos at (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Stephen Swofford)

The Little Rock's mayor and police chief on Wednesday said domestic violence contributed to a third of the homicides in the city so far this year.

Of the 12 homicide deaths in Little Rock in 2022, police believe four involved domestic violence, Police Chief Keith Humphrey said at a weekly news conference. That's compared with eight of the 64 homicides last year that police believe domestic violence played a part.

The city's officers "take domestic violence very seriously," Humphrey said.

As well as Mayor Frank Scott and Humphrey, two advocates who work with victims of violent crime in the city spoke -- Joyce Raynor, executive director of the Center for Healing Hearts and Spirits, and Kandi Hause, a victim advocate with the Little Rock Police Department.

Raynor has had many victims of violence, or their family members, referred to her by police recently, she said, and "it's past time" that the community steps up to do something about the violence.

"I represent parents who are wondering if they will ever feel a sense of normalcy again," Raynor said. "Ones who believe the community, the city, has forgotten their sons and daughters."

Raynor urged citizens to get involved in their community and try to resolve issues before they reach violence.

"Have those tough conversations with your family members. You know who they are," Raynor said. "Because tomorrow, violence could be at your door."

For her part, Hause spoke on how her and her coworkers work with victims, particularly those affected by domestic violence, to try and prevent that sort of hurt from turning deadly.

Hause's office has a specialist who only works on domestic violence cases, and they also offer services aimed at immigrants and the LGBT community, she said.

The department's victim advocacy personnel worked with more than 4,000 people in 2021, Humphrey said, and have worked with more than 400 so far this year.

The chief on Wednesday cited the state's statute for domestic violence crimes, stressing that it applied to violence or threats of harm between blood relatives, spouses or former spouses, romantic partners and other close relations.

Scott, however, said that domestic violence included any time "you know that individual."

"Many times, when we say domestic, it's also acquaintances," Scott said.

Humphrey has said in the past and repeated Wednesday that almost all the homicides the city's police investigate involve people who knew each other.

That reflects nationwide statistics. In 2019, the most recent year available from the FBI, only 1,372 of 13,927 murder victims were known to have been killed by strangers -- less than 10%.

Also Wednesday, Humphrey for the second time declined to say whether he would consider adding more homicide detectives to his force to address the recent murders. He declined to give a definite answer to the same question at a news conference in February.

The department has eight homicide detectives, agency spokesman Sgt. Eric Barnes said; they usually work between seven and 11 cases at once, split evenly between the detectives. Some of these can be double homicides, which are investigated as one case but involve additional work, he added.

Barnes could not readily give a national average, but said he was fairly certain the department's detectives usually worked more cases than detectives in other cities in the nation.

However, Humphrey said that his officers always stepped up to the task, and Scott praised the force's "capture rate."

"When crime happens in our city, those individuals are captured," Scott said. "Point blank, period."

The mayor mentioned the 60% homicide arrest rate that Assistant Chief Wayne Bewley shared the week before, noting that an arrest in a double homicide over the weekend brought that rate up, at or above the 64% national average Bewley also cited.

"That's pretty good," Scott said.

Scott said that arresting criminals wasn't the issue. Instead, it was crime prevention.

To that end, Scott announced the return of the city's summer youth programs that had been shuttered by the covid-19 pandemic in recent years. The programs are in line with his twofold plan to reduce violence through policing and social programs to counteract the root causes of crime.

The program will offer up to 600 jobs to young adults to keep them active and productive, as well as earning money.

"We're gonna be uber-focused on how we strengthen the youth," Scott said.

When asked if the Feb. 1 resolution that removed limits on Little Rock police overtime pay for 30 days would continue, Scott said it would be a "week-to-week" decision, but did not say what decision had been made as the specified time period is coming to an end.

The measure was intended to allow police to better combat violent crime that the same resolution declared a public health emergency.

Scott's communication director, Spencer Watson, later clarified that the lifting of overtime limits "wasn't widely needed," based on reports from Humphrey on Feb. 28.

Watson was not aware that the department had surpassed their regular overtime limit during the previous 30 days, meaning that portion of the resolution never needed to be enforced. But, he added, it could be revived based on the needs city officials saw.

"It's a tool that's still in the toolbox," Watson said.

 Gallery: Mayor Press Conference