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Bryant residents surveyed on public safety in first town hall meeting; school resource program is priority

February 26, 2013

Bryant Mayor Jill Dabbs and a panel of public safety officials, including representatives from the police, fire, code enforcement and animal control departments, gave updates and fielded questions from Bryant residents during the first in a series of town hall meetings Thursday.
Those in attendance — about 30 Bryant residents and a handful of aldermen — were given an opportunity to answer survey questions via cell phone during the event. When asked where public safety funding best would be spent, 42 percent said the city should put more money into the school resource officer program.
Police Chief Mark Kizer said the program is a major priority for the police department and reported that "there were zero fights in our schools during the last two weeks."
The rest of the opinions in the room were split between the construction of a new fire station and funding the cleaning of unsightly properties.
Forty-six percent noted that crime is the most important safety issue in the city; 38 percent noted that traffic is the most pressing safety issue; and 8 percent noted that enforcing city codes is the most important action for providing a safe community. Eight percent of the opinions were not recognizable by the Atext survey system.
Kizer emphasized the difficulty for public safety officials to cope with the immense growth in the city during the last few years. Also, he pointed out that accessibility to the interstate highway makes Bryant an “easy target" for crimes like shoplifting.
The city has collected $1 million worth of narcotics in the past year, Kizer said. In each case, the drugs were being transported on Interstate 30.
The Bryant Police Department now can receive calls through the website in addition to the traditional method of calling 911.
Kizer also credited the utilization of K-9 units in the apprehension of several criminals. The department plans to get another K-9 unit this year, which will cost $35,000, Kizer said. But "this money will not be taken from the city."
The Bryant Police Department now employs 41 full-time officers and four reserve officers, Kizer said. There are usually between five and nine officers on duty during the day, and there are usually about five out at night time, Kizer said.
Kizer also reported that all police vehicles are now equipped with computers and cameras.
The police chief also said the department is working to improve communication with the public.
Alderman Rob Roedel acknowledged the use of communication from the Bryant Fire Department to residents through social media. “It helps because people no longer have a need to follow fire trucks to find out where there are going," he said.
Several questions were posed to public safety officials on how the addition of apartments in the city would affect their departments.
Roedel asked the fire chief if the department would be affected by the construction of a 250-unit apartment complex — referring to a proposed complex that is being blocked by a multifamily housing moratorium,which has resulted in a lawsuit against the city.
Fire Chief J.P. Jordan said the department's work should not be affected by this type of housing.
Both the police chief and fire chief were both asked about possible problems caused by only one entry to the complex.
"I do not feel comfortable if there was only one entry," Jordan said. "I'd request that there be two."
Kizer said that he has heard differing accounts about the number of entrances into the proposed complex.
Residents also asked about the possible increase in crime caused by the addition of apartments.
Kizer said the temptation for criminals is greater any time there is a high concentration of people in a small area.
The apartment complexes at Hurricane Creek were the location for 7 percent of calls to the police department, Kizer said. Walmart, for example, makes up 10 percent, he said.
"The main problem is — and we're trying to educate people — but people need to lock their doors," Kizer said.

**PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 8 IN THE SALINE COURIER.

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