Beefed up police presence successful at Movies in the Park

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - Police in the Capitol City did not take last week's shots-fired incident at Movies in the Park lightly - they responded with full force. Forty-two uniformed officers in addition to eight supervisors roamed around the Rivermarket and even farther outside downtown to make sure things didn't get out of hand this week.

It appeared that the rules of Movies in the Park were imposed to the fullest extent on Wednesday night. Not only were LRPD street officers there, but so were city assigned security detail, student resource officers and community groups.

Sheila Thomas wasn't fazed by the previous week's incident, saying she assumed this week would be a lot safer. Thomas said it appears the "troublemakers" present last week clearly understood what sort of police presence would be at Movies in the Park.

"Oh I'm sure they did get the message, I'm sure they did," said Thomas.

"Our main goal is to go out there and make sure that people feel safe and that the people that were thinking about causing issues are deterred from doing that," said Lt. Sidney Allen, LRPD public information officer.

Officers were observing from above this week, utilizing the Portable Sky Towers usually reserved for events like Riverfest.

LRPD was concerned about the potential for roving groups, demonstrated last week when "unruly teens" caused trouble loitering on Broadway. That's why patrol was set up even outside the Rivermarket, posted up in other downtown locales, with SWAT teams on hand to keep tabs on a potentially moving crowd.

"They are able to rove around and kind of catch the hotspots if things do happen to get more out of control," said Allen.

Despite the increased police presence, the crowd at Movies in the Park this week was smaller.

"People are scared of getting out with what's gone on down here," said Rick Davis. "They're just scared of being out here."

Dalette Vickers, owner of Kona Ice - a Movies in the Park vendor, said her business was definitely slower this week because of the decrease in people. She said people shouldn't worry about coming downtown.

"There is always many police officers and security out here and they are always keeping an eye on everything," said Vickers, commenting she felt especially safe on Wednesday.

It's unclear if the number of police officers present this week will be a permanent fixture down at Movies in the Park.