Friday, April 16, 2010

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part LIII): Crime wave in Jasper

One of the front-page headlines on the March 25 issue of the Newton County Times is "Police working more cases," and it reports that the police department in Jasper, population 498, and the county seat of Newton County, "is seeing an increasing number of criminal complaints being filed." The reporter stops short of characterizing it as a "crime wave," but notes that the Jasper Police Department, which recently expanded to two officers, has 21 cases on its books for 2010, whereas the department worked only 17 "official cases" in all of 2009. The story notes: "What is alarming is that most of the calls this year are drug-related, breaking and entering, and theft." According the county sheriff, this activity with the "city" police means fewer calls to the sheriff's office from Jasper.

Pete DeChant, the Jasper Police Chief, notes that he "believes in community policing. That is, it is important that the public has a trusting relationship with the police department. 'The residents are able to voice their issues and concerns. They point out areas in Jasper that do need attention. And the community is participating more and more and we are getting valuable information.'"

The story goes on to report that 2010 crimes have included three residential breaking and entering situations; two of the homes were unoccupied. Also, both the Jasper Conoco station and the Family Dollar Store were burglarized, the latter by "well-equipped pros" who used the same modus operandi as that used in a Family Dollar Store burglary in Clarksville.

Finally, DeChant reports his awareness of a "growing problem with the illegal sale of prescription drugs. People are coming to Jasper and selling them. the best way to keep them out is to have a visible police presence in the town."

The Department may benefit from a Rural Development grant the city is seeking for improvements to City Hall, as well as for cameras for police cars and a speed monitor.

In other news, other front page headlines report:
  • Deer man gets 36 years for thefts. This story tells of a 32-year-old Deer man whom authorities called a "one-man crime wave" who pleaded guilty to theft, criminal mischief, and fleeing charges."
  • Council sets tobacco policy at park. This story reports on the City Council's decision to "establish a public policy on the use of tobacco at the city's Bradley Park. The policy does not ban tobacco from the park, but signs will be posted requesting that no smoking be observed near children's play areas, and signs will direct smokers to areas where cigarette filter receptacles will be conveniently located. The goal is to make the park's environment safer and more friendly for all of its visitors." Interestingly, the county's share of Arkansas's "master settlement agreement" with tobacco companies funded the Tobacco Education Group, made up largely of high school students, who proposed these limitations to the City Council. The continuation of the story inside the paper uses this headline: "Park: Issue one of litter, not smoking, speakers said."
  • Local history learned at Boxley school. This story, accompanied by two photos of Boxley residents, tells of a benefit held to "raise money to repair and spruce up the over 100-year-old building once used as a church and schoolhouse." It is one of the most photographed buildings in Arkansas.

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