If you see something, say something. Just don’t expect the Asheville Police Department to necessarily respond to you if they don’t think it’s important enough.
The North Carolina city, a popular hippie enclave, has apparently lost a bit of police manpower since the beginning of last year — the better part of 100 officers, in fact. So, if you call 911 for certain crimes, they’re going to give you a shrug emoji in terms of officer response.
According to Fox News, the city announced earlier this week that because of a “staffing crisis,” police would have to stop responding to some emergency calls.
“The Asheville Police Department (APD) has lost 84 officers since January 1, 2020,” the police department announced via Facebook on Wednesday.
“As a result of the staffing crisis, several changes in officer response will go into effect immediately in order to improve response times for emergency calls made to 9-1-1.”
The department went on to list the types of calls and reports that would not receive immediate police attention.
“Theft under $1,000 where there is no suspect information (this does not include stolen vehicles or guns)”; “Theft from a vehicle where there is no suspect information”; “Non-life threatening harassing phone calls (does not include incidents that are related to domestic violence and/or stalking)”; “Simple assaults that are reported after they have occurred”; “Fraud, scams, or identity theft.”
If you’ve experienced any of these crimes, please stand by. Your call is important to us and will be responded to in the order it was received — although that’s heavily qualified by your definition of “responded to.”
This isn’t just because of the fact that, if California finally decides to stop dithering and break off into the sea — and takes a good chunk of Nevada with it — hippies undeterred by the concept of some kind of heavenward message from the seismic event might plausibly consider Asheville as a replacement location for Burning Man. It turns out anti-police rhetoric only works out to your benefit if you don’t lose too many police officers in the process.
According to Fox News, Asheville had 238 officers as of 2019. That means over 35 percent of its police force has left since then.
“There’s no quick fix. There’s no magic wand, There’s no magic pill that’s going to change this overnight,” Asheville Police Chief David Zack told WLOS-TV about the officer shortage.
“For the foreseeable future, the department will not respond to low-level crimes in order to prioritize violent crime. The decision comes amid a drastic drop in the police force,” WLOS reported.
This is hurting the very people that — let me put this as charitably as I can — would normally be drawn to a city like Asheville.
Take Deborah Coule. She’s an Asheville resident and the proprietor of Chevron Trading Post and Bead Company — a company which sounds, by the very name of it, like the kind of place Detective Joe Friday and Officer Bill Gannon might visit on a hippie-themed episode of “Dragnet: 2021” if it were set in the western hills of North Carolina. Except they wouldn’t be visiting.
(“It was Tuesday. It was hot in Asheville. We were working day watch out of robbery. A Deborah Coule called and said there’d been a theft of just under $1,000 from the Chevron Trading Post and Bead Company down on North Lexington Ave. I told her to send us an email and we’d be back in touch with her within two to four business days.”)
Coule moved her company from Florida to Asheville 25 years ago. “I thought Asheville was one of the safest cities for a long time, but lately there’s been a lot of crime and shootings,” she said.
But, don’t worry. The non-responses to calls in the rest of Asheville will mean there are more resources for patrols in downtown Ashe — [plays around with earpiece] Wait, what’s that? I’m sorry, no, there’ll be fewer patrols in downtown Asheville, according to WLOS.
“A big part of crime prevention is officer presence and knowing that officers are actively working the area,” Zack said. “Now, we’re still there, but we’re just not as visible as we used to be. You know, we’re looking at how that’s affecting crime.”
Let me repeat this for those who don’t grok the issues with that statement. This is the chief of police in Asheville, North Carolina, population of over 91,000. He acknowledges that “[a] big part of crime prevention is officer presence and knowing that officers are actively working the area.” He also acknowledges that there won’t be as many officer patrols or as much visibility. His take: “You know, we’re looking at how that’s affecting crime.”
My take: You know, there have to be better options.
City Manager Debra Campbell said in a statement that Asheville “remains committed to the safety of our community, but by necessity we have to prioritize response to the highest levels of crime at this time, due to staffing shortages at the Asheville Police Department.”
“We recognize these are pain points for our community as we work through reimagining public safety for all of Asheville,” she added.
“Let me be clear that I support our police officers and respect the work that they do. I ask our community to do the same. As a community, we are in the process of reimagining what public safety services need to be done directly by the police department. As we work toward reimagining public safety, the goal is to innovate by deploying APD’s resources toward more serious crime and investigation, while assigning lower-level issues to other departments, some of them perhaps to be named or formed with partner agencies.”
Here’s an idea: Instead of “reimagining public safety,” how about we buttress it? It’s an idea conservatives have long touted, one that liberals are finally coming to grips with as “defund the police” rhetoric butts up against reality.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.