APD Capt. Tim Splain checks a man’s prop guns before escorting him from the festival Friday afternoon. Photo by Bill Rhodes.
The level of arrests and crimes that the Asheville Police Department saw at this Bele Chere were “on par” with past years, Lt. Wally Welch tells Xpress.
While this summer has seen concerns over rising crime in downtown, Bele Chere seems — to Welch’s eyes — to have proceeded normally.
“Anecdotally, what we’re seeing is a pretty typical year,” he says. “We don’t have numbers yet, but I expect they’ll back that up.”
On Friday, however, APD officers pepper spray and arrest Thomas Hicks, an Alabama man wanted by federal marshals. But overall, Welch says, the incidents police have had to deal with have mostly been typical, alcohol-related charges.
“The strangest thing we’ve seen [were] questions about a topless woman,” he notes. “But once we informed people that [going topless] is not against North Carolina law, they seemed to understand.”
Welch also thinks putting karaoke nearby Pack Square, a spot street preachers usually gather, helped to reduce confrontations.
“We see less contact with them, and that seems to help things,” he says with a chuckle.
APD officials have told Xpress that they’ll have more detailed numbers on crime at this year’s festival available by the middle of the week.