Haywood benches reversed “to deter criminal activity” ***updated 12:26 p.m. Tuesday***

Two benches at the intersection of Haywood and Walnut streets were reversed last week: They’re now back to back instead of facing each other. A city spokesperson says the step was taken when, after investigating complaints of drug dealing and other criminal acts, the police “found that certain people were using the positioning of the benches to view and discreetly communicate police activity to one another.”

“Members of the downtown community contacted Asheville Police Department concerning activities taking place on the benches at the intersection of Haywood and Walnut,” spokesperson Dawa Hitch writes in an e-mail to Xpress.

What activities? “Our Charlie District officers had received complaints and concerns from the downtown community regarding hand-to-hand drug deals on these benches,” APD spokesperson Melissa Williams writes in an e-mail to Xpress. “We also had complaints about aggressive panhandling, individuals sleeping on the benches, alcohol violations and fights there.”

After surveilling the area, according to Hitch and Williams, the APD found that some people using the benches were communicating about police activity.

“Some individuals were using the benches to act as lookouts to warn of police activity/presence in the area while criminal activity was going on,” Williams asserts.

“The benches are an important asset to the downtown streetscape and rather than removing the benches, APD suggested repositioning them in order to deter criminal activity without losing any seating,” Hitch continues, and answering the APD’s request, the Public Works department reversed the benches last week.

Repositioning the benches is an effort to deter some of the negative congregations at that spot without affecting the availability of public seating,” Williams notes.

However, Hitch asserts, the step was taken with community input.

“This alternative was discussed in more than one meeting with representatives from the Asheville Downtown Association, Downtown Asheville Residential Neighbors, customers of Mobilia and the Homeless Initiative,” she writes. “Additionally, business owners are exploring the possibility of purchasing and maintaining a planter to put between the two benches to enhance the cosmetic design.”

— David Forbes, senior reporter


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32 thoughts on “Haywood benches reversed “to deter criminal activity” ***updated 12:26 p.m. Tuesday***

  1. Jim Shura

    I did notice the change, but last Friday, both benches were mysteriously facing South. ???

  2. Piffy!

    [b]“found that certain people were using the positioning of the benches to view and discreetly communicate police activity to one another.”[/b]


  3. It is getting to the point where a person sits on a bench in downtown Asheville and they are automatically suspect. Even worse if you sit and smoke.

  4. Do other cities have as many “problems” with benches as Asheville.

    “found that certain people were using the positioning of the benches to view and discreetly communicate police activity to one another.”

    Bull$h!t, what were they communicating, hey man that cop has a flat on his segway lets get his doughnut.

    I have seen several groups of people playing music together on those benches. Egad they were probably playing Puff the Magic Dragon (that song is about the devil weed)

    Lets face those homeless people are just to ugly to sit downtown. Either lets get rid of the benches or provide homeless make overs.

  5. Jeff

    This so perfectly illustrates Asheville’s turning it’s back to the homeless/street-creature population. The approach the city appears to be taking lately is to be mean, round up the homeless on B.S. charges, literally deny folks a seat, etc.. Maybe that’ll solve the problem?

    I don’t think this is good policy for creating a solution to the blooming vagrant population. I’m not sure what the real solution is for treating the root causes of homelessness or why they are so attracted to downtown Asheville, but being mean seems to serve no purpose other than to inconvenience everyone.

  6. ashevillain7

    This makes no sense whatsoever. There is still one bench faced in each direction! Just because someone sitting on one bench can no longer give a visual cue “to discreetly communicate police activity” to someone on the other bench doesn’t mean anything. There are other ways to communicate.

    That being said, I never realized Haywood St. was such a hotbed of crime activity. I personally think the APD is just paranoid.

  7. Thank you APD for doing what is necessary to keep the citizens of Asheville safe even if it means reversing the benches.

  8. tank

    I thought that the object of law enforcement was to catch criminals.
    What better way to watch and surveil them when they are grouped together ????

    And APD wanted them turned, opposing one another.
    Good Job !

    Who is smokin what now?

  9. dpewen

    Unbelievable … the people who report criminal activities to the police really need to find a nice quiet home. Just amazing how stupid many in this town are.

  10. LOKEL

    How, and since when, is it “criminal activity” for individual citizens to communicate about police activity …. sound like the APD is getting a bit paranoid …. when did it become suspicious to sit on a bench in downtown.

    Maybe we should get a community volunteer “bench patrol” who could go around and make folks move to a new bench every 20 minutes or so ….

  11. dpewen

    I think we should remove all downtown parking spots so people don’t get to spy on us while we are talking and communicating!!

  12. Dionysis

    This whole thing is dumb, dumb, dumb. Ashevillain 7 took the words out of my mouth (or out of my keyboard).

    Did I mention this was pretty dumb?

  13. lance

    the worst kind of drug deals are those hand-to-hand drug deals

    and to think I have been living hand-to-mouth all these years, no wonder I’m not getting a good buzz

    What about those trees in the downtown area? People are sitting in the shade under them RIGHT NOW probably acting as lookouts while criminal activity is going on in the hot sun.

  14. Sweet Buncy

    Good job. Now if only the city would enforce vagrancy and panhandling laws vigorously Asheville wouldn’t have a “…blooming vagrant population…”

    Go get ’em!

  15. Quick to criticize! Remeber this if you ever need the APD. Make sure they know you think they are doing a poor job when you need their help!

  16. J Drew

    Awesome. Now we can’t sit and talk about this in a lovely, free outdoor scene. Unless we bring our tigerbalm.

  17. Or course they’re flipping/removing benches. It’s a helluva lot cheaper than actually reinforcing our social safety net.

    To all you people who are in favor of removing public facilities or making them less functional: keep in mind that in this economy, you, too, may find soon yourselves on the streets, in dire need of a comfortable place to sit and visit.

    As the middle class crumbles, the “I Got Mine” societal model is no longer viable.

  18. UnaffiliatedVoter

    City Council adopted a total green agenda, so WHY do we have these environmentally UNfriendly SIDEWALKS, with all this talk about building MORE environmentally destructive sidewalks which destroy ecosytems and prohibit natural drainage?

    Shouldnt we demand some Obama Stimulus MONEY to tear up and convert ALL sidewalks to gravel paths which would be greener for the Planet?

    Wouldnt YOU rather sit on benches placed on a natural surface rather than evil concrete? This
    may be Asheville’s most severe UNanalyzed problem.

  19. Barry Summers

    If they really wanted to punish these drug dealers, they would turn the benches to face the wall, and put those baddies in ‘time out’.

  20. “Did city council or APD remove the benches? No?
    Then STFU.”

    They did not remove them they repositioned them so that they no longer as functional as they were, benches that face each other create spaces where people sit and converse.

    According to Mr. Yuck the it appears that public works moved the benches twice, that does not seem like an efficient use of tax paid labor, and all for an imaginary problem. I am glad that most sane people would not STFU.

    Blew by You I have to believe that you are joking.

  21. Agnes Cheek

    HAhaha way to go Asheville for once again raising the bar. This reminds me of when I was a kid in grade school when 2 kids got in trouble for talking, they made them turn their desks away from each other.

  22. me

    swttea , APD has made themselves the laughing stock of this city . Perhaps they need to be told that their performances are sub par . Why is it that the fat ones get the little gyro scoots and the electric cars ? Dirty text message anyone ?

  23. Highly trained law enforcement professionals, hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on crime control. This is the best they could come up with? MMmm….100,000 sperm and the person that thought of this assinine idea was the fastest?

  24. saltskin

    In NYC when there is a vagrancy problem in a public area, the city and/or residents also try to make the area less hospitable. An old lady across the street from me once threw a pot of bleach out her window onto the black-clad goth kids that were camped out on the steps of her building. Unfortunately, her bleach also took out the flowers in her own window box, and many in the garden below. The moral of this story? Everybody loses in the end.

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