ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WSPA) – Asheville Police will no longer be sending officers to respond to certain calls because of a shortage of officers, the department said in a release Wednesday.
The department reports it’s lost 84 officers since the start of last year.
“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,” said Deputy Chief of Police Mike Yelton.
The department said it’s no longer responding to crimes including thefts under $1,000 where there is no suspect information, vehicle break ins where there is no suspect information, “minimal damage and/or graffiti” where there is no suspect info, and reports of fraud, scams and identity theft.
“Our primary responsibility is to maintain a staff of officers that are available to respond to the most severe calls,” Yelton said.
Victims of crimes to which police no longer respond can still file reports online, but 7News is told there’s no guarantee they’ll be investigated, as the investigative unit is down 50 percent of its personnel.
Some city residents are concerned
“I think that’s terrible,” said resident Clyde Walsh. “We definitely need the police.”
As of today, sworn personnel at the Asheville Police Department are down nearly 38 percent, according to a spokesperson with the department. Yelton said there are about 60 vacant positions for sworn personnel.
“Suddenly starting mid year last year we saw a drastic increase in attrition,” Yelton said.
Yelton said a combination of factors, including low pay and low morale are prompting officers to leave.
“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.”
The department is looking to hire vacant positions. Yelton said between hiring and training, it takes about a year to get a new officer on the road.