[Regarding “TDA Discusses Concerns Over the Decline in Tourism,” Sept. 6, Xpress:]
There is much to say about safety concerns in and around downtown Asheville. I read today that both the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department and the Asheville Police Department are experiencing unfilled sworn positions in excess of 25%. Comments by those interviewed for the article suggested a contributing factor may be the high cost of living in Asheville and the surrounding area.
If the Tourism Development Authority feels strongly enough about taking steps to reduce common street crime and other headline-grabbing crimes, perhaps using a portion of tourism revenue to subsidize the cost of local housing for officers would help. The subsidy could be targeted toward enhancing the compensation package available to the Asheville police for retaining existing officers as well as bringing new hires to the Asheville area.
In extraordinary times, organizations that depend on the largesse of tourists must consider extraordinary solutions. Because there are no guarantees of a direct relationship between reduced crime and increasing tourism, the subsidy program could be funded for an initial limited period, e.g., four to five years. Thereafter, if recruitment and retention of officers increase, and city crime statistics markedly improve, a decision can be made whether to continue the program.
— Mike Walker