by Max Brantley
E-mail your friends. That River Market rape spree? Didn't happen. The multiple killings? Didn't happen.
The LRPD's patient PIO Terry Hastings has been bombarded with calls today on account of the widely circulating e-mail with ever-growing accounts of violent crime in the River Market neighborhood. Little in it is true. Here's what he says:
There have been two carjackings of men who had parked cars beneath the I-30 overpass at Clinton Avenue. One occurred Aug. 15. The driver was put in the car with a bag over his head robbed and dumped in NLR. The second occurred Aug. 22. This was the case in which the man was dumped on a rural road and shot in the leg. Both incidents were reported.
Hastings said the police believe they have identified the same juveniles as suspects in both crimes and he expected arrests "shortly." Earlier, we'd mentioned that the perps made calls on a stolen cell phone. At left is a photo of one of the suspects in the most recent carjacking, taken from an ATM camera in North Little Rock.
He said there have been no rapes in the area generally known as the River Market Neighborhood, roughly between Cumberland and the Clinton Library and the Arkansas River and Capitol Avenue since the first of the year. There have been no slayings. No woman has been kidnapped.
Hastings said that, since Jan. 1, there had been 15 "robberies of an individual" in the neighborhood. He said arrests had been made in most of those. Not to downplay them, but he said the majority were probably related to "over-aggressive" panhandlers who'd "strong-armed" people for money.
Hastings said he'd talked with the man, an engineer for an aircraft maker, who apparently started the e-mail rolling. Hastings said the man had apologized and intended to send an e-mail to others about his mistake.
"It’s a great example of what someone sending a couple of e-mails to friends can do," he said.
Still, be careful out there. Bad things can happen. But maybe not so often as a skittish e-mail audience supposes.
ON THE JUMP: the apologetic e-mail. ALSO ON THE JUMP: A letter from Mayor Mark Stodola.
FOLLOWUP E-MAIL FROM THE MAN WHO STARTED IT ALL:
PLEASE FORWARD THIS EMAIL ALONG TO EVERYONE THAT COULD HAVE RECEIVED THE PREVIOUS ONE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
First I have to say that I am overwhelmed and awed by the speed at which things travel!
Second, and most importantly:
I just had a great conversation with Lt. Terry Hastings of the Little Rock Police Department. Lt. Hastings was kind enough to fill in the voids in my story and correct the errors that had been provided to me, which I forwarded along to each of you. It now appears that some of what I stated, with exception of that of my own friend, were small details with compounded exaggeration as it made its way from origin to my own ears. Meaning, insignificant details and theories were combined and told to me as fact.
There have been a total of 15 robberies in the area this year. That is fact. The LRPD has been able to solve the majority of which. With regards to my friend’s case, the LRPD is working feverously to secure all leads and make an arrest.
The young woman I spoke of, was not in fact raped or brutally beaten, but simply robbed (this is a classic case of the old telephone game, details being added by the time it made it to me).
Hastings went on to state that, of course, there is no media conspiracy. I have to admit that with the prior 14 robberies in the area, I mentally discarded them and moved along. But when this most recent event took place, it hit too close to home and we all naturally start questioning why we haven’t heard anything about it yet. [Editor's note: It was widely reported. You can lead folks to media, but you can't make them read.] Had all 14 incidents taken place within a very small time frame, there would have been a media frenzy. But being distanced the way they were, I’m sure we all fast forwarded straight to the weather and never noticed.
As far as accusing the mayor and media of covering things up, this was poorly worded on my behalf! And quickly pointed out to me!!! This was simply posed as a question. A question with an underlying anger of now being afraid to venture out of my own backyard. I will be the first to admit that in situations like this, I become outraged, pound the table, and want to know who let this happen.
Lt. Hastings, I apologize for the circus this created in your office, but I am certainly impressed by the importance and priority that you all laid on this. After speaking with Lt. Hastings, I was actually ashamed of myself. Not for sending the email, but for not having the same reaction, response, and demand for change for the first 14 victims.
This just goes to show that email does in fact progress faster than a police investigation! Again, please share this, and trust that when bad things happen, the news WILL let us know.
STATEMENT FROM MAYOR MARK STODOLA
There has been an email circulating that alleges a conspiracy between my office, the Little Rock Police Department, and the media in covering up a string of violent crimes in the River Market.
This is untrue.
Here are the facts:
· This month, there have been two people who have been the victims of robberies who were taken to ATMs to make withdrawals. The same two suspects were involved in each incident. The Police Department is aggressively working these cases and arrests should be forthcoming.
· In the River Market area each incident since January 1, 2007 has been released to the media.
· There have been no murders or violent abductions resulting in rape in the River Market area.
· Print, television, and radio media have always reported major stories. They will be the first to tell the public, they are in the business of reporting new, not censoring news.
· As a former prosecutor, I have worked to apprehend criminals and to put the people in jail who have committed the crimes. I have not worked to keep crime stories out of the public eye. I want our crime rates down because
Upon learning of this erroneous email, I visited with City Manager Bruce Moore about the City’s response to the abductions that actually happened, as well as about the false reports.
· The Little Rock Police Department has stepped up patrols in the River Market area. Had these two incidents happened in another area of the City, the same action would have been taken.
· Crime areas change routinely. As that happens, the Little Rock Police Department works to address problem areas. Chief Stuart Thomas and his officers daily analyze crime statistics and work to reallocate resources if that is needed.
· We know that light deters crime. The City Manager has reviewed the lighting the River Market area. The lighting is being increased. This should be added by this weekend under the overpass girders and in the parking areas.
In the future, if the public hears about something like this or receives an email, please verify it before sending it on to other people. While everyone wants a safe city and should always take necessary precautions, it is not prudent to forward an unsubstantiated story. In fact, it is against the law. To verify facts, citizens are encouraged to contact the Little Rock Police Department Public Affairs Office at 501-371-4626.