Research-driven policy reduces crime. So how can our legislature do better?

Arkansans are witnessing an uptick in violent crime. According to 2020 FBI statistics, the estimated number of violent crimes in Arkansas spiked to its highest level in more than three decades. Our state also exceeded the national crime rate for the 16th straight year, leaving us with the 5th highest crime rate in the US.

Research shows data-driven solutions can lower crime, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Experts agree that crime reduction takes commitment and investment—like funding quality education, accessible healthcare, and meaningful community development. But in Arkansas, the party in power has stymied good bills, and in turn, passed laws that increase the likelihood of violent crime instead. Our legislature should not expand gun laws or slash public school funding. Now more than ever, our leaders should consider proactive policy solutions to make our communities safer. Here are some examples:

Quality Education for All

  • Early childhood education: provide public pre-k; create childcare vouchers; provide on-site childcare for workers
  • Fund public schools: pay teachers more; provide equitable access to technology; provide after school programs; raise graduation rates 

Sources: Jackson Free Press, Learning Policy Institute

Healthy, Safe Neighborhoods 

  • Good housing: pass standards of habitability; pass comprehensive renters’ rights, create safe + affordable housing options
  • Urban Environment Investment: implement vacant lot greening and abandoned house remediation; plant trees in urban areas; promote trash cleanup 
  • Economic service: provide access to public benefits, tax-preparation, financial counseling and emergency cash grants 

Source: Urban Health Lab

Families that Thrive

  • Affordable childcare: invest in early childhood education and after school programing throughout the state
  • Quality, affordable healthcare: fund parenting skill and mentoring programs; provide mental health services; create hospital-community partnerships 
  • Help people get ahead:  increase minimum wage; expand earned income tax credit to the state level; provide access to small business loans and financial literacy programs

Sources: CDC, NBER, Center for American Progress

Common-Sense Gun Laws

  • Keep guns out of the wrong hands: pass background checks on all gun sales; prohibit people with dangerous histories from having guns
  • Keep guns out of sensitive areas: prevent open carry laws; keep guns off campus; keep guns out of parks and schools

Source: Everytown for Gun Safety 

What has #Arleg done to reduce crime?

Not very much.

The legislature contributes to crime when it:

  • Proposes an increase in prison beds
  • Expands stand-your-ground
  • Allows guns in public parks 
  • Fails to pass comprehensive renters’ rights and habitability standards 
  • Prohibits state from enforcing federal bans on firearms
  • Removes access to gender-affirming healthcare
  • Caters to developers, landlords and relators
  • Fails to prohibit misdemeanor domestic violence convicts from possessing a firearm
  • Fails to pass a hate-crimes bill
  • Rejects federal funding for rental assistance
  • Fails to require workers’ compensation to cover PTSD services
  • Bans reproductive care
  • Allows EMTs to carry guns without a license 
  • Criminalizes non-payment of rent
  • Restricts minimum wage requirements
  • Increases eligibility requirements for SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) 
  • Bans the teaching of so-called “divisive concepts”

The legislature helps reduce crime when it:

  • Increases police pay
  • Prohibits probation for convicts illegally possessing a firearm
  • Allows pharmacist-prescribed birth control to adult women…

plus a myriad of other proposed policies that failed in the legislative process.

What can you do? Ask candidates about which crime reduction policies they support. There is much more our lawmakers can do to reduce crime across our state. Meaningful change takes leadership, investment and imagination from our lawmakers. It’s time voters demand such change.