Downtown Asheville is getting an infusion of police presence under an arrangement announced Friday that the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office will begin patrols alongside Asheville Police.
The move follows Asheville Watchdog’s “Down Town” series of stories documenting concerns from businesses and residents about increasing crime, a depleted police force, and the challenges of a homeless population with untreated mental illness and addictions to potent drugs that cause aggressive behavior.
“I definitely want to give credit where credit is due,” Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer said. “I think having quality local reporting, that brings clarity to some of these challenges, does really help drive good policy. And in this case I think [Asheville Watchdog] have really shined a clear light on a problem that up until now had been kind of talked about more rhetoric than actual data.”
Beginning this weekend, Asheville Police Department patrols “will be complemented by downtown patrols of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office,” the city announced in a news release.
This partnership is the result of “continued attention to a community wide response to downtown safety,” according to the release.
“We are grateful for our police force and for the Sheriff Office’s willingness to provide additional patrols,” City Manager Debra Campbell said in the release. “This is a good example of a collaborative approach to a safe downtown.”
City Attorney Brad Branham said the policy permitting deputy presence downtown is based on an intergovernmental mutual aid agreement.
Branham said he was not sure about the details of the increased law enforcement presence, including how many deputies would be on duty and what types of resources they would bring to patrol duties.
Sheriff Quentin Miller and APD Chief David Zack did not immediately respond to a phone call and text message.
The intergovernmental mutual aid agreement, obtained by Asheville Watchdog, allows officers of the law to have “the same jurisdiction, powers, rights, privileges, and immunities … as the officers of the requesting agency in addition to those the loaned offer normally possesses.”
In this instance APD is the requesting agency.
“The challenges in downtown are serious, complex, and evolving quickly,” Manheimer said in a news release. “Our downtown is a vital hub for a strong economy, for locals and visitors alike. Community safety depends on strong partnerships focused on addressing complex safety issues like we’re seeing downtown. I am proud of the work the men and women of APD are doing for our city every day and I am thankful for the additional support from the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department.”
“There Will Be Many Questions”
Other members of Asheville City Council responded to the move as well.
“I think in recent years, the city and the county have been able to partner on a tremendous amount of community building work,” Council member Sage Turner told Asheville Watchdog. Turner is also a member of the Asheville Downtown Commission. “This partnership is another step in that direction. We have not been able to fully staff our police department for some time. Impacts are being seen across the community. And this collaboration with the county the Sheriff’s department is sure to be helpful.”
Council Member Kim Roney, in an email obtained by Asheville Watchdog, said she appreciated partnerships between the city and county but hadn’t been made aware of the move to bring deputies downtown until very recently. The collaboration was not discussed in the city manager’s report March 11, Roney said.
Reached by Asheville Watchdog, Roney sent a copy of an email she sent to Manheimer, Branham, and Campbell.
“Is it true that two/three Council members met with the City and County managers, the Sheriff, and the Chief to discuss,” she asked. “I appreciate this may be operational/the ‘fuzzy’, but if so, it looks a lot like two/three Council members instructing staff without a majority of Council.”
Roney then asked how many hours or shifts are being served, what the chain of command for the deputies’ presence will look like and what the cost will be to taxpayers.
“There will be many questions, and I can’t share responsibility with a team I’m not included in,” Roney wrote.
“Just because it can be done doesn’t mean it’s right,” Roney added.
Asheville Watchdog is a nonprofit news team producing stories that matter to Asheville and surrounding communities. Andrew R. Jones is a Watchdog investigative reporter. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
my biggest question is how will this affect BCSO coverage for the rest of the county. will these deputies be pulled from regular patrols or are these extra patrols ? . i know Asheville needs the help, but will it be at the cost of county residents response times and safety?? Also, who will be paying for these patrols, the county or the city.
Thank you, Asheville Watchdog. Your reporting matters. The community is lucky to have you.
Yes thank you to Asheville Watchdog. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t know the truth about anything around here. WLOS and ACT are useless. I wish you would cover more of The HCA Mission Hospital dumpster fire that’s still burning.
Makes Citizen Times look all the more petty for refusing to publish Watchdog’s remarkable journalism. How can they justify this abdication to the community they ostensibly serve?
Who will pay for county deputies to patrol downtown Asheville? How many deputies are involved? At what hours will deputies patrol? Will their patrols reduce coverage of communities in Buncombe County?
Thank you to the Avlwatchdog for your excellent reporting. This “solution” does beg the question of spreading thin our law enforcement for the county.
This seems like a band aide approach to a problem. Was the county really staffed so well that they can spare officers without a negative impact to the county?
It appears Asheville City Council is not inclusive of all of it members, which could limit discussion and problem solving issues.
I am appreciative for avlwatchdog to report on issues, and their objective information.
So the mayor does nothing, lets Asheville Watchdog do all the work, and then says thank you? Maybe John Boyle should run.
The city police force is down 40%. I realize that Asheville can’t recruit due to its self-inflicted wounds, but how did those funds now not spent on police get redirected? Given the explosion in prop tax revs and the reduction in spending on public safety, the city should be rolling in $.
Great news! Thanks AVL Watchdog team!! Made my annual donation this AM.
It doesn’t matter who picks up the cost, Asheville is the central hub of Buncombe County, and Asheville citizens pay as much Buncombe County tax as County people pay (County residents/Biltmore Forest pay zero Asheville tax), but enjoy all the benefits of Ashville, like recreation facilities, greenways, baseball fields, sport courts, restaurants etc.
When one Council member constantly upends the process, consistantly votes against any kind of police response, presence, support, then it might be necessary for the City to do a reach around to get some kind of safety back into the street.
Not all Asheville residents want to be robbed by ‘those less fortunate than us’. Not all Asheville residents are happy with unhoused people shooting up drugs on their front porches. Not all Asheville residents like to see every single road entrance with someone pan handling. The only revenue this city has are the residents, and their property taxes. So Mrs. Mayor please give them some public safety.
It took the Watchdog to drive our mayor, council and city manager to do something. As typical, they still respond with empty rhetoric. The mayor said, “…quality local reporting, that brings clarity to some of these challenges, does really help drive good policy. And in this case I think [Asheville Watchdog] have really shined a clear light on a problem that up until now had been kind of talked about more rhetoric than actual data.” City manager , Deborah Campbell said she was grateful for the cooperation between the APD and Sheriff’s office. Council person Kim Roney focused on why she wasn’t part of the planning…ie, it’s all about her ego. This is the leadership of our city. They have no problem funding a baal field but they are inactive in solving community crises. Thank goodness we have a proactive APD. The situation can only improve by voting all these do-nothings out.
Why is there a need for the “The intergovernmental mutual aid agreement” to allow the sheriff’s department to enforce laws in Asheville? Asheville is part of the county. Don’t the citizens of Asheville pay a county tax of 48.8 cents per $100 assessed value? Years ago I had asked a captain in the Buncombe County sheriff’s department about his authority throughout the county and he told me that he could if needed arrest people in the police department building. Has something changed? Just ask’n.
Congratulations to the Asheville Watchdog and the excellent reporting by John Boyle and team. This is the type of investigative reporting that is needed in Asheville, and it’s proven it’s value to our citizens and visitors! Great to see the collaboration with the Asheville Police Department and the Sherriff’s office. We need more leadership and teamwork to solve our serious issues with crime! Kudos!
I read so many comments here and other places that say “vote them out”. But the reality is that there is no alternative. No political affiliation other than Democratic or Progressive will ever be voted in in Asheville, and so these issues are here to stay.
Th e more I hear responses from the mayor, the more I wonder if she even talks to city departments. “ I definitely want to give credit where credit is due,” Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer said. “I think having quality local reporting, that brings clarity to some of these challenges, does really help drive good policy. And in this case I think [Asheville Watchdog] have really shined a clear light on a problem that up until now had been kind of talked about more rhetoric than actual data.”
Has she not talked to the police department at all? She made a similar statement earlier in relation to crime in Asheville, like she was not aware.
Well, lets hope the folks in the pink palace are reading these comments. Good job, Asheville Watchdog.
What a great step forward –I plan to go to the Asheville Symphony Tonight and hope to see this step forward — Thank you — Thank you — Thank you —
George Morosani —
So glad we have the Asheville Watchdog, John Boyle etal. to assist with “outing” the serious situation in Downtown Asheville. I’m proud to be able to support this important publication in our city.
you guys did a good job with this series on the problems downtown,a very professional complete series,thank you
Sad that when a home is broken into and valuables are stolen, BCSD /APD doesn’t have man power to investigate or file reports, but city can spend over 30 Million for ball park instead of spending money where it is actually needed.
This is disgusting. Asheville Watchdog should be ashamed for allowing itself to become a copaganda outlet and used to justify increased policing. The city is bringing in the agency that is responsible for the deadliest jail in the state to police the unhoused population–this is not going to do anything to resolve any of the issues putting our unhoused population at risk, but will result in more people put in jail or forced out of their living spaces and probably more people dying on the streets (or in the jail/hospital).
Why doesn’t the sheriff department and police department merge? Is this just a move to protect tourist at the expense of residents? Are taxpayers paying overtime to these officers? Taxpayers are already paying enough for the tourists! Our infra structure is already showing the strain, now are safety is being put at risk to protect the downtown? Really
While the assistance of BCSO deputies is welcome, without more details on the numbers [both the number of deputies and the cost to city taxpayers], it is impossible to evaluate its short- and longer-term cost/benefits.
Unless and until City leadership is ready to make some difficult decisions, I fear this will be just a band-aid, kicking the can down the road. Spending six figures for a consulting company to recommend and then create a police recruitment website (that hasn’t had any results), would indicate to me that they lack the knowledge and expertise to tackle this issue.
These problems are not unique to Asheville. They have been faced and solved by others in the past. What we need most of all is experienced leadership, willing to make the hard decisions.
Madam Mayor and City Council – Step UP or Step Down.
Wasn’t Asheville who decided to downsize their PD. Now these liberal Einsteins want us in the county to reduce our coverage and pay the bill to supply them with our County officers. Just another brilliant move from the idiots running Asheville and our goofy Sheriff helping them.
This may indeed be a Band-Aid approach but it’s better than inaction. Something must be done. The downtown crime situation has deteriorated into a serious public safety issue for our residents and our downtown workers.
Longer-term solutions should still be strategized.
Thank you, Asheville Watchdog, for shining a light on this situation and applying public pressure toward action to address it. I made my donation to support this local journalism in response.
Like many others, I appreciate the work of AVL Watchdog, but like Councilwoman Roney, I question why it wasn’t arranged in a full council meeting. Why only a few council members? Sunlight makes things grow, including good politics. I also question what will the police, whether county or city, do about the current mental health/addiction issues while on patrol. Will the homeless individuals or “the crazy people” just be arrested and released? That’s just a bandaid. We need a bigger plan.
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