When the Asheville Police Department (ADP) announced in June that it would no longer send officers to the scenes of certain minor crimes because of a staffing shortage, it fueled fears that the city was steadily becoming less safe.
The department has seen 84 officers leave since January 2020 and is now making clear it will no longer respond to theft calls. They will also forgo answering fraud and trespassing calls.
APD Police Chief David Zack cites the “protests against law enforcement” as one of the factors that led so many officers to step away from the job.
The Asheville Citizen-Times notes that “the APD officer attrition rate, formerly one per month, jumped to 7.5 per month in the four months after local protests set off by Minneapolis police murdering Black resident George Floyd.” And even after the highest-profile protests waned the APD continues to see an attrition rate of roughly six officers a month.
As a result, the APD now has “only 167 of its 238 sworn officer positions filled.”
APD response times to 911 calls have lengthened during the period of growing officer attrition. The May 2020 7.7 response time for “serious crimes” is now at approximately 10.6 minutes. So the decision to stop answering calls about less serious crimes is also part of an attempt to cut response times to serious ones.
However, experts disagree with Zach’s approach, claiming that the absence of police will lead to more crimes across the city.
According to reports, Zach no longer wants his officers responding “to the following types of crimes:”
- 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
- Minimal damage and/or graffiti to property 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
- Fraud, scams, or identity theft
- Simple assaults that are reported after they have occurred
- Reports that do not require immediate police actions and/or enforcement (information only reports)
- Funeral escorts
- Lost/found property
- Trespassing where the property owner does not want to press charges
Zack’s department also noted that “noise complaints made during normal business hours and after-hours may have a significant delay in response.”
Chief Zack to the city council’s Public Safety Committee about the decision not to respond to calls about low-level crimes, saying, “This is what it looks like when you’re down this much, when you lose 50% of your detectives.”