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In Spring 2014, Mississippi Delta Project’s Economic Development team researched the causes of and possible solutions for the high crime rate in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas (“Helena”). In connection with this research, the team conducted a series of interviews with Helena citizens and community leaders. The team’s research and interviews revealed that recent events had frayed the community’s faith in its public institutions. In October 2011, the now well-known federal drug investigation called Operation Delta Blues culminated with the arrest of five local law enforcement officials on charges of attempted racketeering.1 During its investigation, the Economic Development team learned of additional allegations of mismanagement and wrongdoing by public officials, including a pattern of dismissing criminal cases for lack of a timely trial which enabled alleged criminals to walk free, and repeated ethics violations by at least one Phillips County judge. The team decided to build upon its previous report, released in Fall 2014, which focused on crime-reduction strategies for Helena, by offering a more pointed analysis and strategies to address these problems of corruption. The goal of this report is to provide policy-makers in Helena with options for addressing corruption in order to reduce the negative economic impact that stem from such corruption and increase community trust in public institutions.

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