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Asheville, North Carolina — Multiple local law enforcement sources who spoke to Fox News Digital put partial blame for the deteriorating North Carolina tourist town’s situation on the city’s liberal political leadership and left-wing activists undermining the police.

“I think what you’re seeing in Asheville right now is the culmination of many years of police pulling back and not letting them do their jobs,” Van Duncan, a former Bunkcombe County Sheriff, told Fox News Digital. in a phone interview.

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Asheville, a city of about 90,000 people nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Bunkcombe County, North Carolina, has seen 31% increase in violent crime per 100,000 people from 2016 to 2020, according to figures released in the spring. Asheville’s increase in violent crime is almost twice the national average and is highest in North Carolina, where violent crime has increased by 13% across the state.

Asheville so far saw 11 murders In 2022, setting it on pace to surpass the murder rates of 2021 and 2020. homelessness rates According to data released in May, there has been a 21% increase since 2021. There is also evidence of an increase in Mexican drug cartel activity in the area, according to multiple law enforcement sources who spoke to Fox News Digital.

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The Asheville Police Department (APD) and the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department have both been bleeding officers in recent years, with many retiring early or simply leaving. APD made international headlines In June 2021 when they announced they would not personally answer 911 calls about theft, fraud or trespass after losing a third of their force.

‘Downhill quick’

Duncan, a longtime registered Democrat, retired as sheriff and became politically unaffiliated in 2018, citing “an anti-law sentiment in the Democratic Party right now,” According to the Asheville Citizen-Times, He told Fox News Digital that police who do wrong should be held accountable, but added that officials locally and across the country are hesitant to do their job “because they may be right, but it may be a wrong set of facts.” could, and they could still be in trouble.”

Duncan further noted that while he was serving as county sheriff, “left-wing activists” from outside the community would come forward to disrupt community meetings. “They’ll try to get really into it with the police, and at times, they’ll try to shout things out,” he said. “And the first people to come to those meetings were people from within the community. They didn’t really get to speak, and they didn’t really do anything.”

“Personally, I think this is the agenda of the Left: for law enforcement to not be able to do anything that is effective and makes the community safe,” he said.

Skyline of Downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

An official currently at the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department, who spoke to Fox News Digital on condition of anonymity, attributed the officers’ exodus to policy changes that affected them. The official also cited a lack of leadership and the “liberal agenda” of some county commissioners and city council members. Neither the Asheville City Council nor the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners responded to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

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The officer specifically placed the blame on Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams, a Democrat, whose office did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment. The officer claimed that Williams’ office often does not charge perpetrators at all or downplay felony charges.

“When there is no accountability for the subjects of the crime, the crime will continue to increase,” the official said. “Officers overlook a lot of things because they know it won’t go anywhere in court.” The official predicted that the situation in the Asheville area is moving “quickly downwards” without a change in leadership.

‘Evil is real’

APD chief David Jack told Fox News Digital that the reasons for the constant flood of resignations in his department are complex and multifaceted. Jack said the APD has lost more than 100 sworn officers since May 2020, which he noted equates to 600 years of experience running out the door.

He cited family pressure, lack of community support and low wages in the expensive city as major factors that prompted police to throw in the towel, but explained that the APD is working with the city to make pay more competitive. . He also said that the “officers are very, very disappointed” by the reduced bail.

The Buncombe County Courthouse, left, and Asheville City Hall, right, are both in the Downtown Asheville Historic District and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Referring to Asheville’s position in the context of current trends in police departments across the US, he said the loss of officers accelerated following the protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd in 2020. There were particularly tense protests that summer in Asheville, with APD officers decked out in riot gear. embroiled in an hour-long standoff On a bridge leading into the city with protesters.

“There have certainly been questions about support [for police] from elected officials, directly down to the President of the United States, so it’s not just local leaders,” he said. “It’s like a perfect storm of events and circumstances that are throwing officials out of the profession who have an important amount of time and experience invested.”

Jack also noted that fewer people still wanted to be police officers, which he described as “a hamster wheel of losing people and trying to replace them at the same time”.

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The Asheville Police Department vehicle is parked in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

The chief said of the rising violent crime, “I certainly think that the disadvantages we have, our ability to be proactive and our ability to be visible, are also increasing partly.” “Since we’ve lost so many officers, and we’re down about 42% every day, officer attendance and officer visibility are not what they were.”

Jack also said that the fentanyl has grown “out of control” in this area, and the amount they are removing from the road is “dangerous.” They reported that county police had recently made the largest fentanyl bust in Buncombe County history, until the APD uncovered a major one weeks later.

When Justin Wilson, who served a decade as an APD Community Resource Officer, resigned in August 2020 to start a new career, he sent a letter to the community he served, apologizing to him and explained that the job “took a toll on my personal life.” the letter was published On the front page of the local newspaper.

The Biltmore Estate, built in 1895, is the largest privately owned home in America and the largest tourist attraction in Asheville, North Carolina.

Writing how he was convinced that the police were tasked with “preventing social issues and disorder” beyond their ability, Wilson concluded that law enforcement solutions to such profound problems were only “a band-aid. and “Strong communities are the real solution”.

“After 10 years in APD, I can say with confidence that APD officers are good people with a good heart,” he wrote. “Evil is real. Evil exists in Asheville, officers are surrounded by it, and they do their best with what they have. Please remember this.”

‘Hub of Antifa’

Chad Nesbitt, former chairman of the Buncombe County GOP, who now works as a local investigative journalist, attributed some of the city’s problems to the presence of Antifa in Asheville, which he described as “the center of Antifa” in the area.

“It’s devastating what they’ve done here in the city and in the Asheville area,” Nesbitt said of Antifa, whose activity he’s been following closely since he was almost killed During protests in the city following the verdict in the Breonna Taylor case in 2020. workers too dropped a coffin At that time the front of the APD headquarters was full of dirt and animal manure.

Nesbitt said the local Antifa has used Floyd’s death “as an excuse to bring chaos to this town,” and pointed to the Firestorm Bookstore Co-op in West Asheville as the nexus of their activity. The bookstore did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

Firestorm Bookstore Co-op in West Asheville, which has faced allegations of being a front for extremist antifa activity.

Nesbitt said that Antifa activists from other major cities throughout North Carolina congregate in Asheville, and that members of the organization who believe in political violence “will try to incite some stupid people to do something very stupid.”

Asheville garnered national attention this summer when Mountain Area Pregnancy Services, a local faith-based crisis pregnancy center, was one of several similar pro-life establishments across the country that were launched in June by radical, Antifa-affiliated pro-abortion groups ” Jane’s Revenge”. ,

“Antifa,” APD. Put signature on two suspects arrested An obelisk dedicated to the Civil War-time governor of North Carolina, for allegedly attempting to bomb the former site of the Vance Monument. The monument stood in the center of downtown Asheville for 123 years before the city was toppled in 2021.

Nesbitt said that the local Antifa has worked its way into universities throughout western North Carolina, and figures sympathetic to Antifa have moved into positions of power in the city council, which prompted Fox News Digital’s request for comment on his allegation. did not answer.

Joy Rees, who is now retired after serving 12 years as a state trooper and 22 years as an agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in the region, sadly told Fox News Digital That’s how it’s been a downfall since growing up in Asheville.

“You have to go back to some old 1990s-style law enforcement, and jail people who commit crimes,” he said. “Or Asheville will soon become a non-entity. Asheville will not be a vacation destination. It will not be a retirement destination. We are already in Top 10% of Violent Cities in America.”

In 2016 Asheville was rated one of the top 10 American travel destinations according to the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards and the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority. Recently Spent $1.3 Million To advertise at the 2022 US Open in local tax dollars.

“Unless you change what you’re doing, no one can stop it,” Rees said. “And to do that, you have to have community resolve. And I think the community that is there now doesn’t have that resolve. I think they’re more of a capable community, and I’m going to make it better.” Don’t see it happening.”