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River Market rumblings

Police stepping it up, but say crime is down.

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Though they say crime is actually down in the nightclub district surrounding the River Market, police have stepped up their presence, spokesman Lt. Terry Hastings said last week. Hastings said "one of our specialized units will be working down there as needed."

But police will not, as Clinton School of Public Service Dean Skip Rutherford posted on his twitter address (@JLRIII) last week, double their presence.

Rutherford has been tweeting about crime in the River Market for a couple of weeks, writing July 4 that "Rose Law Firm's Dan Young to start weekly prayer breakfast in downtown LR. Maybe will help with Thurs-Sat. late night crime in River Market." He followed that up a few days later with the flash that police would double their presence in the area.

Hastings said the River Market district has five or six patrolman assigned there. There are eight officers in the specialized unit, he said.

Hastings said overall crime "is down in the River Market" district, but concedes that assaults and robberies are up. "Car break-ins are down and thefts are way down" compared to last year, Hastings said.

There have been five cases of aggravated assault so far this year, one more than in all of 2009. There have also been four robberies to date, the same as in all of 2009.

River Market crime has been a topic at the Copper Grill Grocery breakfast group, Rutherford said.

"There are many complaints of people getting harassed, stopped, and running into large groups that are threatening. ... There is a growing dialogue among various people," Rutherford said in an interview. He does not think race enters into the worries expressed by visitors to downtown's nighttime tourist destination. Hastings characterized most of the aggression as bar fights.

The Clinton School holds classes in the restored Porbeck and Bowman building across from the River Market as well as in the school property on the Clinton Center grounds. To Rutherford, the area is "our campus." He's been concerned with the litter in the River Market as well. "Having students greeted by trash is not my idea of greeting the best and brightest to Arkansas."

Rutherford said Police Chief Stuart Thomas told a neighborhood group last week that he would double policemen on Friday and Saturday nights, placing some on the periphery parking areas. Hastings reiterated, however, that extra policing would be on an "as needed" basis, and that the unit's ability to respond quickly makes doubling-up unnecessary.

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