Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper presented a review of the department’s 2016 activities at City Council’s Jan. 24 meeting.
Citywide, Hooper said, rates of aggravated assault are up sharply. Domestic aggravated assault increased 33 percent over the previous year, a finding Hooper attributed in part to improved reporting through the Family Justice Center and partner agencies. Non-domestic aggravated assault increased 22 percent. Hooper said many of those assault cases involved guns. Overall, she said, the rates of gun-related crime were “way up.” The rates of both domestic and non-domestic aggravated assault were above five-year averages, while property crime was down slightly over 2015.
The rate of crime in downtown Asheville far outpaced the rest of the city, as 351 violent and property crimes were reported downtown. City public housing neighborhoods Pisgah View and Hillcrest apartments each had 61 crimes, while 58 crimes were reported at RiverBend Marketplace (129 Bleachery Boulevard off Swannanoa River Road) and 48 at Deaverview Apartments
Crime went down in the second half of 2016 at Deaverview Apartments, the chief said, after officers working there were required to add one-hour foot patrols to their duties.
Typical property crimes in the city included larceny to autos and shoplifting.
Hooper said the department’s staffing is based on a population of 87,000 residents, but the actual number of people in the city can be as high as 160,000 depending on the number of visitors. Downtown Asheville draws the highest concentrations of those visitors, Hooper said.
The chief said she had requested funding to create a 24/7 downtown unit in the last two budget cycles; she will repeat the request for the upcoming fiscal year 2017-18, which begins July 1. Mayor Esther Manheimer asked Hooper for a reminder of the cost to create the dedicated downtown unit. The first year of the new unit, Hooper said, would cost around $1 million; successive years would be slightly less. Hooper stressed that, from the time of Council’s decision to fund the unit, the APD would need 18 months to recruit, hire and train the officers to staff it.
The top locations for traffic accidents within the city limits were:
- Interstate 240, Exit 7 at Tunnel Road: 81 accidents
- Patton Avenue at Louisiana Avenue: 40 accidents
- Patton Avenue at New Leicester Highway: 32 accidents
- Patton Avenue at Lexington Avenue: 22 accidents
- Interstate 40, Exit 44: 21 accidents
In 2016, 560 candidates applied to be Asheville police officers. After completing the department’s screening process, 36 were hired, a hire rate of 6.4 percent, which Hooper said is in line with national averages. Of those 36, 26 were white males, seven were white females and three were Latino males. Since that group of hires, 14 more recruits have been offered employment, comprising ten white males, two white females, one African-American male and one Asian male. That group will begin training in February. Hooper said the department continues to focus on increasing minority recruitment and hiring through a variety of strategies.
The APD’s evidence room backlog is 75 percent cleared, she said. The department expects to complete the backlog by June 30 next year.
To enhance community relationships and trust, Hooper said, the department has deployed 120 body-worn cameras; the remaining 60 officers who have not yet been outfitted with the cameras will receive them by the end of this year. The community participated in a process to create a revised Use of Force policy, and the department has provided training on a range of topics to increase officers’ awareness of mental health crises, implicit bias and other issues. Officers are also engaged in initiatives to develop relationships with children and young people in the community, Hooper said.