Gun violence in Asheville has recently spiked, according to a report from Asheville City Manager Debra Campbell and Asheville Police Department Deputy Chief James Baumstark presented at City Council’s June 25 meeting. The report, which did not include data regarding other forms of crime or sexual assault, revealed that gun crime has risen nearly 14% since June 2018 — and 55% since 2016.
Baumstark said that while most months of 2019 have tracked similarly to the same months last year in the volume of gun-related incident reports filed, May was particularly violent. More than double the number of gun-related incidents were reported then, he said, compared to May 2018.
As of June 23, APD has responded to 360 gun calls, Baumstark said, noting that the top three locations from which police have received calls are in and around public housing communities. The vicinities of Pisgah View, Deaverview and Hillcrest apartments, he said, account for more than half of all calls for gunshot wounds, gun discharges and person-with-gun reports in 2019.
Council member Sheneika Smith pointed out that calls to APD regarding gun violence do not necessarily reflect the actions of the members of public housing communities.
“As a community, when we’re addressing this issue, we need to also debunk a lot of the myths,” Smith said. “So when we say that we have a lot of calls in public housing, then we automatically think that the people who live in public housing are the problems, when they’re really victims.
“There are people from outside of Asheville and other counties that come into our public housing areas and are causing a lot of the disturbances. I just want to put that out there so we have a great understanding as we move forward,” Smith continued. Council member Keith Young asked Baumstark about the demographics and residences of those charged for gun crime, but the deputy chief did not have that information immediately on hand.
Baumstark said that APD has developed a task force with state and federal partners and is using the recent data to deploy resources to areas experiencing higher rates of gun violence. He also encouraged community members to increase their awareness of what happens in their neighborhood and to report suspicious activity.
“We’re not asking you to give your name or your address or your phone number, but if you see something that’s not right, we would like them to call,” Baumstark said. “I would rather go down and find out there’s absolutely nothing than to go down for a shooting an hour after they saw something that they didn’t think was right.”