Little Rock mayor links crime increase to parolees

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - Mayor Mark Stodola calls for statewide parole reform to address rising property crimes in the capitol city.

Although overall reported crime is down by .68 percent in Little Rock, officials say it's easy to see how property crimes are on the rise.

Stodola told the crowd that gathered at City Hall Tuesday afternoon that reported violent crime is down almost eleven percent, although property crimes are up nearly two percent.

"Regardless, if you are a victim of crime, statistics don't mean anything," he acknowledged during his speech.

The statistics did bring out some frustration in the mayor after his sixth's annual State of the City address.

Stodola noted a recent LRPD report stated parolees accounted for 20 percent of all offenses in Little Rock in 2012, with a seven percent clearance rate. In particular, he singled out 92 offenders who committed 197 crimes between them. Out of those 92 people, 76% had a prior felony on their record, said Stodola.

"[Some convicted felons] are out here they're breaking into houses, they're breaking into cars, they're not being watched or kept up with in any fashionable way that they should," said Stodola.

He said the 18 new officers currently in training and the 31 officers hired in 2012 will be for nothing if state funding isn't aside for more electronic monitoring of parolees.

The Department of Community Corrections has only 249 electronic monitoring devices for the several thousand parolees in the state, according to Stodola.

He asked lawmakers to take up the issue of parole reform that addresses electronic monitoring during this session.

As jails and prisons continue to release inmates early due to overcrowding and Act 570, LRPD says parole officers need more resources to cope.

"Residential burglaries and secondary offenses with credit cards and things that are stolen and those crimes, those are coming up," said Chief Stuart Thomas, "and those are the type of offenders that we arrest over and over again."

In the end Stodola did vow city action against crime.

His targets are select apartment managers whose complexes burden officers with up to 530 phone calls every year.

His ordinance would be "costly" for apartment managers not in compliance.

"I am preparing legislation for the city board to attempt to remedy what is an obvious problem," said Stodola, "reflecting of the inability of the owners of some of these properties to manage their apartments properly."

Additionally, Stodola praised citizens for their efforts in passing a 2012 millage initiative that funded more than $100 million in infrastructure repairs citywide.

The opening of the Little Rock Homeless Day Center has again been delayed and now is slated to open next month, Stodola announced at the end of the speech.