Arkansas police department creates new unit to crack down on drugs, violent crime

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BLYTHEVILLE, Ark. — The police department in Blytheville, Arkansas has created a new street crimes unit. It’s a specialized force of 16 officers who are free from routine patrol so they can focus on drugs and violent crime.

“It’s a big deal for us because it’s another tool in our tool box that we can use to fight crime here,” Chief Ross Thompson said.

The unit launched on March 29. Since then, it’s made 19 arrests and seized seven guns, two vehicles, various narcotics and more than $6,000 in cash.

“There’s no doubt that they were able to make a significant impact right away,” Thompson said.

Several operations were conducted in a neighborhood near Lily and Walls Street, where former officer Richard Nash has lived for decades.

“Once they get rid of the drugs, the violent crime will automatically reduce,” he said.

The police department has actually had a street crimes unit several times before in recent years, but it eventually had to be disbanded each time because of a lack of manpower.

Thompson is confident it’ll last this time. He says the department is just about fully staffed for the first time in 17 years.

“It seems like the officers that are participating, they’re excited about it,” he said, “Our ultimate goal is not just to arrest the people on the streets on drugs or be in gangs doing the violence but those that are profiting from this and that supply chain.”

Fourteen of the officers participate in the street crimes unit part-time and earn overtime pay.

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