Asheville Police Department’s Crime Numbers and Targeted Operations
The Asheville Police Department recently released updated crime numbers for 2023 and announced new “targeted special operations” to combat crime in the area, particularly in the downtown district. These operations have led to 62 recent arrests and citations, with many of those arrested or cited listing the A-Hope Day Center as their permanent address. However, some members of the public have raised concerns about the priorities of the police department and how targeting repeat offenders affects the homeless population.
Targeted Operations Based on Data Analytics
APD’s crime analytics team uses a computerized statistics model and meets on a monthly basis to analyze crime trends and specific crimes and who commits them. The goal is to identify the “prolific repeat offenders” who are responsible for the vast majority of crime in the area, such as drug offenses, trespassing, and panhandling. The police department has shifted its focus over the last six to seven months to address and hold accountable these repeat offenders for their disproportionate amount of crimes.
Increased Police Presence and Overtime
The Downtown Safety Initiative has increased APD’s presence in the downtown district, resulting in increased officer overtime. However, the spike in crime in the area has also raised concerns about whether the presence of police is contributing to both spikes in crime and decreased crime. APD officials attribute the increase in crime reporting to the increased police presence and greater visibility of crime as it occurs. Also, APD saw an increase in overtime hours and paid. In the pay period running from Dec 24, 2022, to Oct 13, 2023. APD officers worked a total of 40, 167. 83 overtime hours, totaling $2, 060, 369. 31 overtime paid.
The APD clarifies that it is not trying to criminalize homelessness, but rather address criminal activity, as it hears complaints from downtown business owners and employees about panhandling, trespassing, and other offenses. However, some members of the public have raised concerns about how recent operations have led to 32 arrests of Asheville’s homeless population. APD officials argue that they aim to provide resources, such as addiction treatment and mental health stabilization, to help those experiencing homelessness get back on their feet, but also recognize that a group of unhoused individuals commit crimes.
The Importance of Accurate Reporting
APD officials believe that underreporting of crime and the decreased reporting of crimes not currently in progress contributes to an inaccurate understanding of crime trends in Asheville. The police department now asks citizens to complete a police report through the APD online reporting tool for crimes that are not currently in progress and not tied to domestic violence or forensic value. APD officers log all calls received in their reporting system, CAD, and build a report if the call is determined to be a crime. Citizens are urged to use the online reporting tool so that APD can identify where resources are needed to address crime more effectively.
The APD’s increased focus on targeted operations to address crime trends and the presence of police in the downtown district may not always sit well with the citizens, but officials argue that it is necessary to maintain public safety. The importance of accurate reporting cannot be overstated, and citizens are urged to use the online reporting tool so that APD can respond more effectively and address crimes in a timely and efficient manner.
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