Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott told members of the media Wednesday that the city is increasing its police presence in areas that have seen an increase in violent crime.
Violent crime is up overall in Arkansas’ capital city, and an incident heat map from city officials indicates most of the incidents occurring in areas with 72204 and 72209 ZIP codes — central Little Rock between Woodrow Street and University Avenue and 12th and 28th streets, as well as in southwest Little Rock west of Chicot Road and north of Mabelvale Cutoff.
City officials recently claimed that the majority of violence over the past two years has involved those ages 11-25, in identifiable pockets of the city.
Speaking at Wednesday’s public safety update, Little Rock Police Department Assistant Chief Wayne Bewley said the number of incidents involving first-degree battery and terroristic threatening were down 7 percent each in 2022, although the number of victims was up 37 percent for terroristic threatening and 21 percent for battery.
Mayor Scott declared a public health emergency in Little Rock on Feb. 1, following a spate of violent crime over the last weekend in January that left 10 people shot including a 1-year-old child. Since then, the city has scheduled weekly public safety updates.
According to FBI data, violent crime overall in Little Rock has increased 27 percent for the first two months of the year, and that includes a 67 percent spike in homicides.
Since November, the city has averaged 259 “part 1” criminal offenses per week. The FBI classifies the following as part 1 offenses: criminal homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary (breaking or entering), larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson.
However, LRPD’s “hot spot” maps did not convey an increase in criminal activity in affluent neighborhoods – such as the Chenal area of west Little Rock and the Heights neighborhood – in recent months.
Notable incidents include an attempted carjacking involving AY Media Group President/Publisher Heather Baker in the Heights neighborhood in November 2021, during which, at least 30 shots were fired; and another attempted carjacking in February 2022, perpetrated by children against Little Rock attorney Carol Worley in the city’s South Main (SoMa) neighborhood. (Baker’s first-person account of her incident can be read here.)
Mayor Scott did not return a request for comment.
Arkansas Money & Politics spoke to concerned business leader, Howard Hurst, president of Tipton & Hurst. The floral and gift company was founded in Little Rock in 1886. Hurst said the store’s flagship location on north Grant, which is considered a staple of Little Rock’s Heights neighborhood, has experienced more crime in the last two years than the past ten years cumulatively. He noted that crimes such as vandalism, destruction of vehicles, theft of property and shoplifting have increased in the area.
“We have cameras everywhere that record everything,” said Hurst in an exclusive interview. “We rarely see an arrest or prosecution of the suspect(s).”
“As a small business owner who pays franchise fees and taxes to the city, it is very frustrating,” said Hurst. “My family has served the city in many positions since 1825, from volunteers to mayors and city directors.”
Despite being a lively area known for its unique cultural attractions and entertainment, the South Main Street district of Little Rock has also been shaken by violent crime in recent months.
In an interview with Arkansas Money & Politics, Carol Worley, attorney and Downtown Little Rock Partnership vice president, described how she was attacked as she was leaving work on Feb. 10.
“It’s a failure of society, in my opinion. It’s one of those things where afterward you think, ‘I will never trust anyone again’.”
Worley was leaving work in SoMa around 4:45 p.m. As she was loading a box of recyclables into the trunk of her car to take home, a little girl approached her.
She asked, “Ma’am, can you take me to my mom’s house?” She was crying.
“Are you okay?” asked Worley.
“Yeah, I just need to get home. I need to get home to my mom.”
Worley told the little girl that since she drove a Smart car, she wasn’t sure if there was room.
“Well, it’s just down on 12th street,” the little girl said.
“And she’s crying, so in my mind I’m thinking, My God, what if I say no to her and she’s been raped or sex trafficked and really needs some help?” Worley recalled. “So I said, ‘Okay, get in the car’.”
Worley said that as the girl was getting into the car, another child walked up. The girl told Worley it was her brother and asked if he could come along. “We just need to get home,” said the little girl.
“They were very small. They didn’t even come up to my shoulder,” Worley said.
Since they were in a small car, Worley and the children were huddled together in the front seats.
“We were driving down Daisy Bates toward 12th street when the little girl looked at her phone and said, ‘My mom’s not home. Can you take me to my pawpaw’s house?’ I asked where he lived and she answered, ‘Over on Ringo [Street].’”
“I hesitated and asked, ‘How far is that from here?’ The girl said it wasn’t far.
“And they were giving me directions, telling me to ‘turn here, go here’ and all the while they were being very polite, saying ‘Yes, ma’am, no ma’am,’” recalled Worley.
Worley said that in retrospect, the kids gave her “every indication” that something was going to happen. She remembered the girl asking questions such as, ‘This car doesn’t have keys in it?” Worley answered that the keys were located down between the seats. Because there were two [passengers] in the front seat, they were covering the key.
“She just kind of chuckled, then a little bit later asked, ‘Is this a standard?’ And I’m just thinking they’re laughing at my little car. I didn’t think anything about it. ‘No, it’s automatic,’ I told them.”
They kept driving and Worley, now worried, asked the kids if they were sure they knew where they were going. “Yes,” the little boy assured her. “When you take a left here, there’ll be a park [Crump Park]. My pawpaw lives one block on the other side of the park.”
“So we took a left and sure enough, there’s the park,” said Worley. “And I thought, ‘OK, we are at the park, there’s people at the park — We’re OK.’”
However, as Worley began to turn left, the boy reached over and pushed the car into park and pulled the keys out of the ignition.
“I looked over at him and went, ‘Oh, hell no. This isn’t happening.’”
Worley said she then reached over and grabbed her keys back, and a struggle ensued. She said the girl couldn’t get out of the car because smart cars have unusual door handles. As the girl was trying desperately to get out of the car, Worley was fighting her attacker.
The girl panicked and yelled to her “brother” to grab her phone after Worley got her keys back and pushed the emergency button. The car alarm was going off. In the middle of chaos, Worley managed to reach her phone that was in the pocket of the driver’s side door. She pushed it so that it would dial 9-1-1.
It was then that the little girl began attacking Worley, as well.
“She grabbed my hair. She was on the passenger side, and she managed to get the door open. She pulled me by my hair out of the passenger door.”
Worley was trying to fight off both of them when the girl suddenly yelled, “Let’s get out of here!” The two took off running behind her, back toward 33rd Street. By then, the police had answered Worley’s call.
“When I saw the kids running behind me, I got back in my car and started chasing them.”
As she chased them, Worley told police, “Two kids just tried to carjack my car.”
“The officer asked if I was OK, and I said, ‘Yes,’ and he told me to lock my door. And I said, ‘I am sitting here looking at [the kids].’ They were hiding down in a ditch on the side of the road. ‘They’re right here.’ So I pulled my car up beside them.”
It was dark. Worley said she was rattled at that point. Her hair was falling out of the side of her head where she had been attacked.
“So after about three or four minutes, I told the officer, ‘I’m sorry, but I’m not going to stay here. There are people passing by, there are cars slowing down. I’m uncomfortable.’”
Police instructed Worley to drive to a nearby community center parking lot to wait for help to arrive.
“I waited and waited. I was in a parking lot with only one way in and one way out, with a fence all the way around it — I was nervous. I thought, ‘I’m not staying here.’”
Worley drove to the 12th Street police station, arriving 45 minutes after the incident. An officer approached her from behind, asking if he could help. She told him she was there to make a report.
“Then, lo and behold,” she said, “The call about the carjacking came through over his radio. I looked at him and asked, ‘Are they seriously just now calling that in?’
“He said, ‘I am so sorry. We have been really busy.’ I was really frustrated.”
As she gave the officers her report, she reached up and touched the right side of her head. Clusters of hair started falling out.
“At that point, I just wanted to cry. The reality of everything hit me.”
Still, Worley said she doesn’t want people to think Little Rock is a dangerous place.
“I am very involved with everything going on downtown — but, if this happens to someone else and I don’t say anything, that’s on me. So, I want to share my story.”
As for the current state of the investigation, Worley says police have a copy of surveillance footage of the suspects, which they sent out to schools in the area and other police departments. But, no arrests have been made. Neither have any been made in the Baker case.
Worley believes her incident represented an attempted carjacking.
“I’m thinking they were fifth or sixth graders. They weren’t big. I’ve got pictures of them. Midtown [Billiards] has surveillance, and I’ve got pictures of them.
“I have a smart car. It doesn’t go fast. I truly have no idea what they wanted. According to the police, it’s bigger than just two kids doing a TikTok stunt. One of them said that over in southwest Little Rock, they had five of these incidents happen in one night. And in all the cases, the assailants were kids.”
The officer told Worley, “the big thing now is 10-16 year olds.”
“It was stupid of me to let them in the car,” she said. “But, I didn’t expect this from kids.
“At a minimum, they need help. If they’ll do this at the age of 10, 11, 12; imagine what they will be like at 20 and 21. That, to me, is horrifying to think — that is the direction our society is going. I feel like we’re putting Band-aids on everything. Concepts are good but in reality, they’re not working. I didn’t want to say anything at first. And that’s a problem.
“It’s a balancing act. It made me realize that saying something is the right thing to do, as opposed to keeping it all in. For the good of everybody, not just me.”
If you have any information on these criminal offenses, please call the LRPD tip line at 501-371-INFO.