Residents of the Arkansas town of Paragould — population barely 25,000 — will soon begin noticing a constant presence of militarized police patrolling the streets and asking to see pedestrians’ papers.
At a town meeting last week, Paragould Mayor Mike Gaskill and Police Chief Todd Stovall endorsed a plan that would involve police in full SWAT gear brandishing AR-15s roaming streets downtown on a daily basis. The officials cite rising crime rates in the city as the primary reason for visually militarizing police on regular patrols.
According to city-data.com, Paragould has had a property crime index rating more than double the national average since 2007. Rapes, burglaries, thefts and assaults per capita are well above the national average in the city.
“This fear is what’s given us the reason to do this. Once I have stats and people saying they’re scared, we can do this,” Stovall said, according to the Paragould Daily Press. “It allows us to do what we’re fixing to do.”
The officials said that the police would not only be on the lookout for criminal activity, but will also collect ID from anyone and everyone they encounter in the city.
“If you’re out walking, we’re going to stop you, ask why you’re out walking, check for your ID,” the Daily Press reported him saying during last week’s meeting.
“To ask you for your ID, I have to have a reason,” he said. “Well, I’ve got statistical reasons that say I’ve got a lot of crime right now, which gives me probable cause to ask what you’re doing out. Then when I add that people are scared…then that gives us even more [reason] to ask why are you here and what are you doing in this area.”
“They may not be doing anything but walking their dog,” added Gaskill, “but they’re going to have to prove it.”
The officials contend that the policies, set to be rolled out in 2013, will not violate residents’ 4th Amendment rights because it is their “duty and obligation” to find out why crime rates are high and how they can lower them.