Little Rock cops and the homeless: A report to the city board | Arkansas Blog

Friday, August 18, 2017

Little Rock cops and the homeless: A report to the city board

Posted By on Fri, Aug 18, 2017 at 8:19 AM

click to enlarge STREETSCAPE: This photo is part of a file prepared for the City Board on response to complaints about problems with the homeless attracted to a church at 1101 W. Markham.
  • STREETSCAPE: This photo is part of a file prepared for the City Board on response to complaints about problems with the homeless attracted to a church at 1101 W. Markham.
The Little Rock City Board got a report this week on a simmering dispute about a storefront church's evening meals for the homeless on W. Markham Street.

The church, From His Throne, complained last Friday about a new surveillance camera, the presence of multiple police officers and threats to arrest homeless people for loitering when they were standing outside the church waiting to be fed.

A neighbor in an advertising business across the street in the 1100 block, Michelle Hastings, has complained long and frequently about problems she's encountered. The police have responded time and again.

However heavy-handed the police may have been Friday — and I do think a threat of loitering arrests is constitutionally suspect — the record compiled for the City Board shows a remarkable degree of police attention and patience in dealing with one squeaky wheel and the difficult problem of dealing with the personalities and pathologies present among the homeless.

Interesting, among others, were findings about dozens of police calls in which no violations were found. Also, there was an allegation of theft of plants by the homeless that turned out to be a theft by a nearby resident. An allegation of prostitution appeared unfounded. Graffiti is popping up in the neighborhood, but also elsewhere, and there's some question that it's work of the homeless. There are also photos of fights and sidewalk sleepers, sights certainly not conducive to ordinary commerce. There's a photo, too, of a naked pedestrian, apparently the same person who turned up on the Internet strolling nude past the Dillard's building a while back.

Police have directed special patrols. They've responded to 243 calls in seven months. The statistics show that almost half were unfounded or "nonpolice" incidents.

This report was distributed to city directors and some of it appeared in reporting earlier in the week by the Democrat-Gazette. It was obtained by blogger Russ Racop in response to a Freedom of Information Act request and he passed it to me.  It is, by the way, long past time in a city that is touting its openness and Internet accessibility to have all material supplied to the City Board supplied simultaneously to the public on the Internet. For anyone interested in the homeless controversy, it's fascinating reading. The police and city attention has been significant in a time of rising violent crime. (Note the report is dated April 17. That's in error. It should be Aug. 17.)

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