Sheriff calls 2013 'a year of tragedies.'

Calling 2013 a year of tragedies, Sheriff Jason Watson said that, to his knowledge, it was a year with record crime numbers for Clark County. After investigating a fatal shooting in downtown and a triple homicide in December 2012, authorities opened yet another murder case on Jan. 16, when John Chad Griffin allegedly shot and killed David Stewart at a 13th Street home. In March, the sheriff was kept busy in North Carolina, when Cassandra Carter's body was found in the trunk of her own vehicle there. Devastation, though fortunately not fatal, struck again in May when a tornado ripped through portions of rural Clark County near Amity, damaging homes and other structures. Also in May, Watson lost a "dear friend" when Scott County Sheriff Cody Carpenter, along with Arkansas Game & Fish Commission wildlife officer Joel Campora, was killed in the line of duty while trying to rescue two flood victims who also died during flooding near Y City. "It was definitely a year that saw its tragedies," Watson said, "but we move forward and we're stronger because of it." A total of 247 new criminal cases were opened, and 130 arrests were made in Clark County. Drugs arrests also abounded in 2013. According to information from Clark County Prosecutor Blake Batson, 47 pounds of marijuana were seized during the year, along with 35 plants and one indoor grow operation being dismantled. More than 12 ounces of meth was seized, and one meth lab was dismantled in 2013. Cocaine and crack seizures totaled 1.33 ounces, more than 2,000 prescription pills and 16 grams of ecstasy were confiscated during 2013. It was also a "very interesting year" for run-ins. The sheriff arrested a Cleveland, Ohio, drug suspect wanted on federal drug charges. Also, two separate homicide suspects from out of state were arrested in Arkadelphia and Caddo Valley. "This year, along with the ending of 2012, was the worst criminally in the county's history," Watson explained. But it hasn't all been bad news from the sheriff's standpoint. Unlike other counties in the state dealing with clogged jail rosters, the Clark County Detention Center was able to maintain jail space "because of a timely and great working relationship between the courts, the prosecutor and the sheriff 's office," Watson said. A new dispatch room was constructed at the jail, and Watson's administration kept busy training Arkadelphia and Gurdon teachers in school safety. "We are ordering trauma and first-aid kits, a project that started last school year and has carried over," Watson continued. "My goal is to have a kit in each classroom at Arkadelphia, Gurdon and Centerpoint." Watson said he hopes 2014 goes smoothly. "I look forward to continuing the successful things we've done as far as training in the schools," he said. "I also aim to work closely with our students and being involved in civic duties as well as our regular police business." He concluded: "Since I've been sheriff I've run my administration as a team effort. We've met a lot of challenges in this administration, and we've met them together as a community and will continue to meet them as they come. "We are very involved with the community, and I enjoy and look forward to continue that. This is not just where I work. This is my home."