SPRINGDALE (KFSM)- Springdale city leaders held a media conference April 21 to outline a strategy to end a recent outbreak of gang violence.
Mayor Doug Sprouse, Police Chief Kathy O’Kelley, and Springdale Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Rollins all spoke at the conference. Together, they announced the city will hire 10 new police officers and seven new school resource officers (SROs). Chief O'Kelley also announced plans to reassemble a Crime Suppression Unit that was dismantled in 2013.
"We had some staffing problems," O'Kelley said.
According to O'Kelley, the unit will focus on undercover work and surveillance.
"We will continue to use those directed patrols to specifically target and address [gang] activities," she said.
Mayor Sprouse said the gang violence prompted city leaders to bring the Crime Suppression Unit back, but said other officers had been assigned to many of the duties that were once handled by the unit, such as identifying where gangs are centered and who belongs to them.
"We have been addressing all those issues through other means," the mayor said.
O'Kelley said rebuilding the Crime Suppression Unit is a top priority for the city.
"Crime is local in nature. It happens to locals by locals," she said. "They have the information to help us solve crime. If we don't have the relationship with them to get the information from them, we aren't going to solve it."
O'Kelley said prior to the recent gang-related shooting incidents, she had planned to bring back the unit in either June or September. Now, O'Kelley hopes to have it back within the next six months.
The city will seek approval to fund the additional officers during a City Council meeting. The SROs will be funded through a grant awarded to the school district before the gang violence began in mid-March.
The mayor was visibly emotional during parts of the conference, saying he had been praying for the city.
"Prayer is not a desperate last resort to find a solution,” Sprouse said. “Prayer is the first step in finding a solution.”
Following the media conference, hundreds attended a Peace Walk through neighborhoods affected by gangs.