Asheville faces increase in gun crimes

Nora Donovan

News Writer

ndonovan@unca.edu

A graph provided by the City of Asheville demonstrates the increase in gun related crimes over the years

The Asheville police department recently fired off some staggering statistics.

Gun crimes have risen 44 percent since June 2018 and 55 percent since 2016. These numbers were presented by Asheville city manager Debra Campbell and APD Deputy Chief James Baumstark at a June 25 city council meeting.

“That statistic likely has changed a bit since then but we cannot confirm without running numbers,” said Meredith Warfield, communication specialist for the APD.

Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, Asheville Middle School and the School of Inquiry and Life Sciences at Asheville recently felt the effects of this statistic, undergoing an hour-long lockdown on Sept. 10. The lockdown was in response to three to four shots fired near Black Street, an area in direct vicinity of the schools.

“APD organized a special task force to deal with the increase of gun-related crimes,” said Warfield. “It’s impact is still under analysis.”

Safety from gun violence in schools has been a topic relevant to the University of North Carolina school system. UNC Charlotte experienced an active shooter on April 30, leaving two dead and four injured, according to police reports. 

“I do think I generally feel safe,” said Wes Byers, a 29-year-old junior at UNC Asheville. “Safer than Charlotte.”

The air of safety on campus has not been incidental. Campus security takes preventative measures regarding gun crimes. 

The Department of Emergency Management at UNCA  partakes in ALICE training, an educational resource regarding active shooters. The class includes a classroom portion which educates on how to protect yourself, as well as a practical exercise where you can practice taking an active shooter down. Students, faculty and staff can enlist in the training as well. 

“There’s an online video that you can watch called Run, Hide, Fight,” said UNCA Police Chief Eric Boyce. “That’s kind of the national campaign of the three options that you should do if you’re faced with an armed assailant. And those aren’t in any particular order, its situation driven. We also do a lot of programming with student groups who want to come in and talk about those things.”

All types of weapons were previously prohibited on campus, according to Boyce, however new legislations have passed which pose an interesting loophole.

“Now, weapons are allowed on campus in a locked compartment of a vehicle. And so it really just depends on the circumstances, if its a concealed carry person and they have a weapon and they’re transitioning it from the car to the trunk where they can lock it up on campus, that’s allowed,” Boyce said.

According to the Pew Research Center, 20 active shooter incidents took place in 2016,  with 30 in 2017 and 27 in 2018.

“Honestly, I’ve moved here from Miami,” said Jorge Leon, a senior at UNCA. “For me I didn’t really see a big change but I can believe it with the climate currently with guns and safety and everything like that.”

The town of Woodfin, one exit away from campus, has different experiences regarding gun statistics.

“Looking at a six year average from 2012 through 2017, we had a total of 26 instances that involved any type of firearm,” Police Chief Michael J. Dykes said. “Not specifying if it was a pistol or rifle or shotgun, it’s just cumulative.”

Woodfin’s population contains a vast difference from its neighboring city of Asheville. Woodfin has a population of 7,000 residents while Asheville has 91,000 according to the 2017 U.S. Census Bureau.

“26 instances over six years; that’s 4.3 instances per year,” Dykes said. 

That statistic remains relatively small compared to the city of Asheville.

“We are safe and we like to law that out. We are constantly ranked as one of the safest cities in North Carolina,” Dykes said.

Linda Stanley, a sales clerk at the Citi Stop on Brookdale Road in Woodfin, disagrees. Since Dec. 1, 2018 the Citi Stop has been the victim of a robbery three times. Out of those three times, twice it has been with a firearm.

“It has definitely gotten more dangerous,” Stanley said.

Gun crimes continue to remain an uphill battle, however there are some ways to help prevent it, Dykes said.

“If they are a victim or witness in any type of gun related crime or any crime whatsoever, number one is call 911, give as much information as they possibly can,” Dykes said. If someone is being threatened with a firearm, don’t do anything that would cause more harm. Personal items such as wallets, keys, cards, or money are all replaceable. 

“Always try to be a good witness, remember details as much as you can stay calm and again, call us right away,” Dykes said.

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