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Buncombe sheriff cites accomplishments, challenges
Saturday, 16 September 2023 13:55
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Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller provided a 15-minute update on the accomplishments and challenges faced by the Buncombe Sheriff’s Office during a Sept. 1 meeting of the Asheville-based Council of Independendent Business Owners.

About 60 people attended the early-morning program that included breakfast. Miller was re-elected sheriff in November 2022, carrying more than 60 percent of the vote.

Among fiscal 2021 accomplishments, he listed securing grant funding to re-establish the county’s DWI task force program and established and launched the detention’ MAT program — “increasing our ability keep the coommunity safe.”

Among his office’s fiscal 2022 accomplishments, he noted that it negotiated a tiered detention health contract — reducing the required cost for medical servces when total inmate population is low.

“One of our biggest accomplishments has been establishing real-time intelligence in our schools,” Miller said. “At one, time, we’d get a call, grab a gun and go...

“We also are working on how we can reunify families...

“Sometimes we don’t have the people, so now we can use the technology to help us...”

The sheriff also listed among his fiscal 2022 accomplishments “petitioning to add dash cameras into our vehicles as well as using up-to-date technology with our body cameras. This ensures that the interactions with the community” are recorded.

Among fiscal 2023 accomplishments, he noted, “We expanded our technology by implementing license plate readers iin public housing. This technology has successfully identired several stole vehicles. We are also implanting new technology to use on our school grounds to increase the safety of our kids.”

In the last four years, we had 17 homicides — and we’ve charged someone in every case… That means we have 100 percent clearance. I’m just telling you if you commit a crime in Buncombe County, we’re going to hunt you down... I know our crime rate has gone down...

“Given that the city is in the county, the expectation has been for us to come down there and help.

“We’re not going to run from anything  — that’s our job” to include patroling in downtown Asheville.

As for the crime rate in Buncombe County, Asheville television station WLOS (News 13) noted the following in a Jan. 23 report:

“New data from the North Carolina SBI showed a significant decline in crime in Buncombe County in 2022.

“Year-end stats for Buncombe show double-digit declines in some major crime categories

“Compared to 2021, larceny and thefts were down 24 percent, breaking and enterings were down 23 percent, motor vehicle thefts dropped 26 percent, stolen property crimes dropped 35 percent and robberies were down more than 50 percent.

“Killings were also down. In 2022, there were four compared to seven in 2021. The Sheriff’s Office has brought charges in all of the 13 homicides investigated during the last three years.”

During a 15-minute question-and-answer session following his address, an unidentified man asked, “A few years off ‘Defunding the Police,’ are your funding levels adequate?”

“At the end of the day, it comes back to the same call — the cost of living. The majority of our workforfce actually drives to work — 30 to 45 minutes on average. The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners has been terrific” in supporting the shefiff’s office, Miller said. “But, at the same time, if they’d approve more funding, I’d take it.”

Another unidentified man queried, “I think I heard you (the sheriff) say the jail is about a third full?”

“It’s about two-thirds — 450 to 470 of the 604 beds” now, Miller answered. “During (the) COVID (pandemic in 2020), it (the jail) got down to one-third” occupancy.

Yet another unidentified man told Miller, “I was down at Best Buy on Tunnel Road… They’ve got a homeless camp near them — and they’ve got a lot of people coming in and taking things from the storekeeper. In downtown Asheville, I’ve also heard storekeepers have the same problem... What efforts (as sheriff) are you making” to resolve the problem?

“Stealing is stealing — whether it’s five dollars or five-thousand dollars,” the sheriff replied. “We need to hold people accountable...

“At the end of the day, we hope that we will not go back where we were before... 

“I’m just standing by and we’ll go back downtown if we need to....”

An unidentified woman asked, “How do you figure out who’s your captain — your point of contact?”

“If you just go online, it (the sheriff’s office website) lists our three captains” and their contact information, Miller answered. 

An unidentified man asked, “When you were last here (at a CIBO meeting), you said, ‘the sheriff’s office would start enforcing traffic laws....’”

“When we say ‘enforce traffic,’ we mean mostly around our school zones… and also with impaired drivers.... We need to have law enforcement (including sheriff’s deputies) stop speeders around schools — and follow a school bus, where people are passing stopped school buses with their (crossing) arms out....”

Another unidentified man asked Miller to speak about “mental health and substance abuse” — and their impact on crime.

“Mental health and substance abuse are growing problems,” Miller answered. “We’re asking deputies to be mental health counselors.. I keep looking at how much more can we do. The numbers are increasing, people are dying... We’ve been told we have the deadliest jail in North Carolina, but we have people coming to our jail who haven’t been to a doctor in 10 years... So some of the challenges we have are how we are going to address the issues... Somteimes, the system is broken, and sometimes, in the jail, we have to do something about it....”

An unidentified man asked, “You had mentioned your use of technology. Are you also able to do that with APD (Asheville Police Department) officers (downtown)?”

“The system makes their’s (the APD’s radios) come on... This system is connected not just with North Carolina, but also with South Carolina and Georgia....”

Miller added, “A lot of our problems are drug-related…Yes, with the APD, I’m not sure if they’ve just got a couple of cameras downtown... You can ring the doorbell and be connected to our system.”

An unidentified man queried, “We’ve received in the mail donation requests with your ‘beautiful’ picture on it. How much money do you receive from that?”

“The answer is none,” the sheriff replied with a grin, as the CIBO crowd erupted into laughter. “We don’t get that money at the (Buncombe) sheriff’s office — it goes to the (state sheriff’s) association....”

An unidentified woman told the sheriff that she has been told  that “80 percent of crime is directly or indirectly from mental health issues.”

“If we could improve the mental health, I think it’d cut our inmate population by half,” Miller replied. “The drugs are not legal... We need to find a way to address the issue....”

Agreeing, the woman told the sheriff, “I sincerely feel yours’ is not the deadliest jail (in the state) — you’ve just got some of the sickest people to deal with,” who are incarcerated there.

“I think she’s correct,” Miller said, succinctly, adding, “The county has embarked on this paramedic program — because everyone in crisis doesn’t need to be in jail. We need to enhance that program... Where many people need to go — in my opinion — is not to our detention facility,” but instead to facilities that can treat their conditions.

An unidentified man told the sheriff that he has been seeing “situations, increasingly, where license plates are obstructed....”

“We are stepping up enforcement of it,” Miller answered.

Another unidentified man asked for the sheriff’s explantation for why, in a case involving a Buncombe sheriff’s employee who lives in Madison County — “Why did you (Miller) go there?”

“I was there to support my employee, who was having a problem with drugs,” Miller replied.

Yet another unidentified man asked Miller to address the recent burning of two APD police vehicles — “when there was an anarchist book fair nearby.”

“We knew this group — or somebody — was coming to town... It’s unacceptable... Each police car is $110,000 to $120,000 to replace... Burning a police car is (a signal of) a total lack of respect for law enforcement — and we can’t accept that!” the sheriff said, as the Q&A session drew to a close.



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