Asheville is a small- to medium-sized Southern city of 95,000 people.
It’s not often in the national news as an example of something good or bad, but it is having deal with the fallout of the "Defund the Police" movement.
We have come to expect large cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York to have problems with spiking crime. We have seen some small town devastated by the horrendous "Defund the Police" movement, when their entire police force quits.
"There has been a steady increase in violent crime, which started to peak in 2019, and in 2022 it trended at a historically high rate. A reduction of officers does play a role in the increase in crime," Police Chief David Zack told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Violent crime in Asheville increased by 17% from 2021 to 2022.
"Downtown continues to experience one of the highest concentrations of violent crime in the city. 10% of the city’s violent crime occurs within an area that covers less than 0.5 square miles," Chief Zack said.
Although crime did not begin with the George Floyd riots that many cities experienced in 2020, it did take a decidedly upward spike with some residents jumping on the "Defund the Police" bandwagon without thinking through the consequences.
In 2020, there were five days of unrest in Asheville following the death of Floyd, resulting in a public outcry to defund the police.
Luckily, this did not happen.
However, The New York Times reported that some residents began treating the police harshly. "They said that we have become the bad guys, and we did not get into this to become the bad guys," Chief Zack said.
It had the desired effect on police officers.
Many officers were assaulted, according to the Times.
Absent public support and with public antagonism toward them, they began to retire or transfer to departments where their services were appreciated.
Since June 2020, the Asheville Police Department has shrunk 140 officers, ABC News reported.
Meanwhile, crime has been increasing, which wears down officers.
They know the job they need to do, but with so much public scrutiny on them, with people waiting for them to do something that can be taken out of context to attack them, police officers are loudly saying, "No thanks!"
Since then, the city has increased its compensation package for police to attract new officers. This yielded just 18 new officers last year.
The city also recently introduced new initiatives to try to attack crime.
More police were sent to city parks to discourage criminal activity there.
City workers are also focusing on cleaning up human waste and used needles from public areas. It's using the fire department to lead a program to help people suffering mental health problems.
The city needs to do something because it's beginning to follow in the footsteps of the large cities, although at a slower rate.
People are increasingly reluctant to visit the downtown area.
This is hurting businesses.
If it continues, those businesses will start to relocate in safer locations, and the people will follow them for the same reason.
Seeing their city starting to mirror those larger cities has caused many people to reconsider their views on police and to be vocal about it.
The Asheville Coalition of Public Safety funded billboards across the city showing their support for their officers.
This is a good step!
It will help officers feel that they once again are doing a worthwhile job and are appreciated.
Having that support can help them focus on doing a good job for the community to maintain that support.
And make no mistake, Asheville and other citizens throughout the country need their police or they will continue to see their safety deteriorate.
Michael Letts is the Founder and CEO of In-Vest USA, a national grassroots nonprofit organization helping to re-fund police by contributing thousands of bulletproof vests for police forces through educational, public relations, sponsorship, and fundraising programs. He also has over 30 years of law enforcement experience. Read More Michael Letts reports — Here.
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