~Jasper, Arkansas

It’s not a crime wave, but the Jasper Police Department is seeing an increase in the number of criminal complaints being filed.

Police Chief Pete DeChant was joined on the force last December by Cody E. Middleton, a former dispatcher for the sheriff’s office. As it is turning out the extra manpower comes at a needed time.

Last year, the department worked 17 official cases. As of Friday, March 19, the department has 21 cases on its books, DeChant said. What is alarming is that most of the calls this year are drug-related, breaking and entering and theft.                                                                                                                                                                                                    

DeChant said Newton County Sheriff Keith Slape (pitured to the left) told him that the sheriff’s office is receiving fewer calls from Jasper. “That’s an indication to me that Jasper residents are relying more on their police department,” said the chief.

 DeChant believes in community policing. That is, it is important that the public has a trusting relationship with the police department. “The residents are able to voice their issues and concerns. They point out areas in Jasper that do need attention. And the community is participating more and more and we are getting valuable information.                                                           

Newton County Jail~                                                                   

Since the start of the year there have been three residential break-in and entering. Two of those were at unoccupied homes. One was occupied. There was a break-in at an apartment complex. The Conoco station in Jasper was burglarized and $500 was taken and on Feb. 28 the Family Dollar Store was apparently targeted by some well-equipped pros who knew what they were doing. They neatly removed some cement blocks from a wall, disconnected the phone lines, and took the safe and the building’s security system. “A break-in at the Family Dollar store in Clarksville had a similar M.O.,” said DeChant. He called in the Arkansas State Police who assigned a criminal investigation from Company E.

 There were no break-ins of homes reported last year, DeChant noted.

Shoplifting, violations of protection orders, assault, possession of drug paraphernalia, and DWI’s are the department’s most common cases. About 50 percent of the crimes committed within the city limits are felonies. So far this year, the department has made three arrests.

DeChant said he has become aware of a growing problem with the illegal sale of prescription drugs. People are coming into Jasper and selling them. The best way to keep them out is to have a visible police presence in the town.

The city council is supporting the police department. At it’s last meeting, the council directed Mayor Shannon Willis to include the department in a request for Rural Development funds for some remodeling work at city hall. Included in the request are some cameras for the police cars, a new computer printer and a speed monitor. The monitor, who sits on a trailer parked on the side of the road, flashes at approaching vehicle’s speed that the driver can see and respond to. DeChant said this is a friendly way to enforce the city’s speed laws without having to write out tickets. The cost of the Smart 500 – Speed Trailer is around $6,000.


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