Inside the Numbers: Little Rock’s Homicide Surge

By now, we know Little Rock has a violent crime problem…

Just more than halfway through the year, 2017’s homicide total of 34 has already surpassed the entire year of 2015. We’re on pace for numbers matched during the “Bangin’ in the Rock” days of the mid 90s.

No doubt, there’s an issue that needs to be addressed (and is via the city, police, and Victory Over Violence).  One thing I found interesting: the problem isn’t as bad as it is in some other American cities.

And no, I’m not talking about Chicago.

I tweeted out this comparison on Sunday afternoon and that generated some debate.  The calculations show number of homicides divided into the town’s population.  You get a formula that shows Little Rock has had one homicide for every 6,200 residents in 2017.

Despite all the headlines you hear about Chicago, it’s been safer this year (per capita) than many other popular American cities.  That St. Louis figure might surprise you.  It caught me off guard…

The chart also prompted a question from the Dean of the Clinton School of Public Service.  Skip Rutherford wondered whether any of Little Rock homicides have been random.  How many are domestic?  Are they between known people or families? Are drugs at the root?

I dug through the data I could find and the results were pretty interesting.  Here’s how Little Rock’s 34 homicides break down (to the best of my knowledge):

  • 18 unsolved. No suspects named
  • 5 domestic violence
  • 4 known subjects: solved, arrests made
  • 3 officer-involved shootings
  • 1 child abuse death
  • 1 family: brother shoots brother
  • 1 fatal robbery: victim shoots robber
  • 1 accidental shooting

The statistics show more than half (53%) of Little Rock’s homicides remained unsolved.   However, those are just the numbers.  When you look a little deeper, that stat isn’t exactly as advertised.

Let’s dig into the cases considered solved:

Five domestic violence deaths sound like a lot.  That represents roughly 15% or roughly 1 in 7 of Little Rock’s homicides.

You also have a child death, accidental shooting, and brother killing brother in which involved parties were all known.

Officer-involved shootings must be classified as homicides.

There’s also a case when a robbery victim turned the tables on the suspect and shot him.  The person who fired the shot was not charged.

Now, what we don’t know:

With 18 homicides unsolved and no suspects named, it’s tough to make any determinations on the root of these crimes.  Of what I could track down, only one of those homicides was definitively labeled random.


When you take out the domestic deaths, officer-involved shootings, victim shooting robber, baby death, accidental shooting, and brother vs. brother, you have 22 remaining homicides.  Four of those have been solved.

On those 22 crimes, that’s a clearance rate of 18 percent.

What does that tell us?  More of the people responsible for the killings need to be locked up.

The numbers also reveal we have too many crimes where people aren’t talking.  In the majority of these cases, the victims are young black males — as young as 14.  In some, the motive appears to be robbery.  In others, they’re targeted victims of drive-by shootings.

In at least one case, the victim is an unintended target of a targeted crime.  Daycare owner Shirley Jackson was killed while taking care of children at her home.

I’ll let you draw your own conclusion on the data. But I think we can all agree that Little Rock can be better than this.

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