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Betty Jo Drive: Reputation Justified?

FAYETTEVILLE, AR -- A street in Fayetteville, is known for a notorious stigma. But is it current, or a thing of the past?
They party out in the streets. They'll pull a couch out by the side of the road and sit there and drink your beers. -- Betty Jo resident
FAYETTEVILLE, AR -- That name ‘Betty’.

It brings to mind a character: Betty White.

Good cooking: Betty Crocker.

Even a catchy chorus: Black Betty.

But, slap the name ‘Jo’ behind it, drop a Google pin in Fayetteville and you’re smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood that screams notoriety.

“Unfortunately, Betty Jo does have that stigma as to being a troubled area of town.”

Sargent Craig Stout with Fayetteville police says it was the same way when he joined the force nearly two decades ago.

“That was the reputation it had,” Stout says.

“It was not a safe place, it wasn’t a safe street.”

But why are people knocking it now? Does its current crime rate warrant that reputation?

Sure, take a tour and you’ll notice a few eyesores, some spray paint. During KNWA’s filming for the story, cops were actually in the area responding to a call.

“I think that a lot of people might be surprised when you actually run the numbers as for the calls for service that the police have here,” Stout says.

“It’s going to be comparable, or even lower, than some of the other streets.”

As a matter of fact, when you break it down, over the past year in a five-block stretch, cops were called to Betty Jo 352 times.

That number is comparable to a place like North Leverett where cops were called 336 times.

However, it’s quite a bit more than a place like South College where 73 calls were made to Fayetteville police.

“I’ve been to calls on Betty Jo Drive over my career, much like I have with any other street in this city,” Stout says.

“Crime is so transitional in nature.”

Probably no one has a better gauge of Betty Jo’s troubled timeline than Millie Roach.

“At first, it wasn’t really good.”

For the past 27 years, she’s lived here.

“I’m kind of the granny woman on the street to all the kids.”

She runs a daycare out of her Betty Jo home and has been, pretty much since the day she moved in.

“That’s me and all the kids there,” Roach says pointing to a handful of old photos.

“You can see what Betty Jo looked like when I first started. From then, now, I think it’s OK. It depends on who moves in next week.”

She can legally care for up to 16 kids at a time.

“They’re totally safe,” Roach says.

“Nobody’s ever bothered me here.”

Some questionable curbside behavior does catch her eye from time to time.

“They party out in the streets,” Roach says.

“They’ll pull a couch out by the side of the road and sit there and drink your beers.”

But her biggest complaint:

“The music. You can probably hear the basses right now,” Roach says.

“I’ve threatened to put Bluegrass on mine and just join them but police told me that probably wouldn’t be very neighborly to do.”

All in all, the street’s senior resident sees Betty Jo Drive as a stretch of asphalt that’s not as rocky as people pave it out to be.

“I feel safe, yeah, I do,” Roach says.

“There’s a lot of really nice people that live over here.”

Sargent Stout even has his suspicions as deeming the road a ‘troubled area of town’.

“Is it the ‘Black Eye of Fayetteville’? I think that’s an unfair statement,” Stout says.

“Once a reputation gets out there, it’s very hard to get rid of that reputation. It’s there and it may take another generation before it goes away.”


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