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Police in NC city stop responding to certain calls amid staffing shortage

Police car (Dreamstime/TNS)
June 18, 2021

The Police Department in Asheville, North Carolina, announced earlier this month that it can no longer respond to certain calls as a result of staff shortages caused by more than 80 officers leaving the department since January 2020.

“The Asheville Police Department has lost 84 officers since January 1, 2020. 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,” a June 2 press release from the department stated.

Effective from June 2 on, officers will no longer respond to:

  • Theft under $1,000 where there is no suspect information (this does not include stolen vehicles or guns)
  • Theft from a vehicle where there is no suspect information
  • Minimal damage and/or graffiti to property where there is no suspect information
  • Non-life-threatening harassing phone calls (does not include incidents that are related to domestic violence and/or stalking)
  • Fraud, scams, or identity theft
  • Simple assaults that are reported after they have occurred
  • Reports that do not require immediate police actions and/or enforcement (information only reports)
  • Funeral escorts
  • Lost/found property
  • Trespassing where the property owner does not want to press charges

The department also noted that noise complaints made during normal business hours and after-hours may result in a delayed response.

Given the new standards, police are advising any victims of the aforementioned crimes use the Police to Citizens online reporting tool to file a police report.

“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, according to WSPA.

According to WSPA, Chief Yelton noted that the number of active-duty officers is down almost 40 percent, with nearly 60 openings available.

“Our primary responsibility is to maintain a staff of officers that are available to respond to the most severe calls,” Chief Yelton explained.

The exodus began as anti-cop demonstrations rages across the United States last year, and Yelton said the staffing struggle is likely due to a combination of factors, including low morale.

“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.”