Asheville, NC – The Asheville Police Department announced on Friday that it can no longer respond to a whole list of calls because the department has lost 84 officers since the beginning of 2020.
Asheville Police Public Information Officer Christina Hallingse said the changes would be implemented right away, WYFF reported.
“As a result of the staffing crisis, several changes in officer response will go into effect immediately in order to improve response times for emergency calls made to 911,” Hallingse said.
Going forward, Asheville police won’t send officer to calls about thefts of under $1,000 where there is no suspect information, unless the stolen item is a vehicle or gun, WYFF reported.
Officers also won’t respond to reports of thefts from vehicles if there isn’t a suspect.
Nor will police respond to calls about minimal damage and/or graffiti to property without information about a suspect, WYFF reported.
Non-life-threatening harassing phone calls won’t get a police response, either, unless the incident is related to domestic violence and/or stalking.
Officers won’t be sent to take police reports on fraud, scams, or identity theft, nor will they respond to reports of simple assaults that have already occurred, WYFF reported.
Police also will not be dispatched to anything that does not require immediate police action and/or enforcement, known as information-only reports, nor will they be sent to calls about lost and/or found property.
The department said that members of the force were no longer available to provide funeral escorts, according to WYFF.
Officers also won’t be sent to any trespassing call where the property owner doesn’t want to press charges.
Hallingse said residents were encouraged to file reports on all of those items listed using the online reporting tool created for that purpose, WYFF reported.
The change shouldn’t come as a big surprise to anyone because the police department has been losing officers at an unprecedented rate for the past year-and-a-half, WSPA reported.
“We have an agency that has provided services at a high level for a long time, but the circumstances have come to pass that we don’t have the staffing to maintain that level of service,” Asheville Police Deputy Chief Mike Yelton explained when made the announcement.
Chief Yelton said the number of active-duty sworn personnel was down by 38 percent, WSPA reported.
He said there were currently about 60 openings for sworn law enforcement officers which meant they needed to switch around resources.
“Our primary responsibility is to maintain a staff of officers that are available to respond to the most severe calls,” Chief Yelton explained.
The deputy chief attributed the surge in resignations and retirements to anti-cop sentiment in North Carolina and across the nation, WSPA reported.
“Suddenly starting mid-year last year we saw a drastic increase in attrition,” Chief Yelton said.
The timeline matches with the start of the George Floyd riots in 2020.
Chief Yelton said the mass exodus could be credited to a combination of things that included low pay and low morale, WSPA reported.
“When they respond to help people and as soon as they arrive on scene they’re seeing graffiti everywhere with some of the messages you’ve seen around downtown Asheville and negative, very negative, derogatory things, it affects them,” he said. “And it is a further factor that communicates to them that the community does not fully value their time and effort.”
Community members were worried about having fewer police on the streets, WSPA reported.
“I think that’s terrible,” resident Clyde Walsh said. “We definitely need the police.”