Little Rock vice mayor referred to intervention program as ‘hug-a-thug’ approach 

Lance Hines later apologized for his "offensive and inappropriate" comments, saying he was committed to supporting those programs.

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The vice mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas, is being criticized after referring to one of the city’s community-based intervention programs as a “hug-a-thug” approach during a recent Little Rock board of directors meeting. 

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, on Feb. 1 city leaders were discussing a resolution to declare violent crime a public health emergency when Vice Mayor Lance Hines lashed out during his time to address the measure. 

The resolution, written by Mayor Frank Scott, Jr., was largely symbolic and committed the city to pursue a “holistic approach” to address violence. 

Larry Hines
Vice Mayor Lance Hines of Little Rock, Arkansas (Photo credit: littlerock.gov)

“This holistic approach — and this is going to offend some — the hug-a-thug does not work; it has never worked,” Hines said about spending $5.5 million annually on prevention, intervention, and treatment programs by the city, according to the Democrat-Gazette.

Instead, Hines proposed that the city request support from the governor and have Arkansas State Police send troopers into the city. “I think what we need is a little bit of a police state to get control of our streets in the short-term until we can get all these programs rolled out,” Hines said, according to the northwest edition of the Democrat-Gazette.

In a Twitter thread, Hines addressed his comments saying, “Last night in a heated debate about the ongoing violent crime in our community I used an offensive and inappropriate description of our Youth Prevention and Intervention programs. I sincerely apologize for that characterization. I am committed to support those programs as have for the last 11 years as a city director.” 

He added, “My comment has unfortunately taken the focus off the problem at hand, which is violent crime and a safer Little Rock. I definitely feel the long-term solution to the ongoing violent crime in Little Rock lies within those programs and co-ordination with pro-active policing with the Little Rock Police Department.” 

Little Rock District Court Judge Mark D. Leverett sent Hines an email several days after the incident writing, “My wife, Dr. Kim Leverett, and I are gravely disappointed by the broad-based, disparaging and narrow-minded comments made by you at Tuesday’s board meeting. I can assure you, we are not the only ones.”

He added that it was troubling that Hines prefaced his statement by saying he knew that it would offend, “and proceeded to say it anyway.”

Leverett added, “These kids who are the primary beneficiaries of programs like this, by [and] large, look like me not you. That’s what makes the comments even more inappropriate and personally offensive.” The judge is Black. Hines is white. 

The Democrat-Gazette shared several comments it obtained through an open-records request that shows Hines received numerous messages applauding his comment and characterization. One email read: “Thank you for speaking up about this issue in a clear and direct manner. While I understand the political necessity of you apologizing for your choice of words used that evening, those words you used appropriately described the situation, in my opinion.”

Two others read: “I just wanted to thank you for your comments at the Board Meeting this week. I completely agree with you on your opposition and comments about the ‘holistic’ approach.” The second stated that an apology for saying “hug-a-thug,” was not necessary, and added, “I agree with your total statement.”

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