In a ceremony on August 27, the Asheville Police Department issued 17 promotions to officers within the department. The ceremony, attended by family, fellow officers, Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy and City of Asheville personnel, took place in the Ferguson Auditorium of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. The occasion marked the promotion of 14 officers to the rank of sergeant and three sergeants to the rank of lieutenant.
“This is an exciting day,” said Asheville Police Chief William Hogan. “As we move forward, there is a lot of leadership stepping up in the department.”
Hogan touched on the department’s dedication to its guiding principles of integrity, fairness, respect and professionalism. “I believe those guiding principles are the glue that holds us together,” Hogan said. “My heartfelt congratulations to all of you. I am proud of each and every one of you.”
Mayor Terry Bellamy oversaw the swearing in of the officers in their new roles, and thanked the officers on behalf of Asheville City Council. “We need individuals who will stand for the core values of the city and who will stand for what is right,” she said.
Asheville City Manager Gary Jackson noted that, while it had been several years since the last promotions within the department, the process resulted in exceptional candidates moving up in the department.
“We went through a process that made sure it would render the very best people in these seats,” Jackson said.
As each officer was named, family members joined them at the front of the auditorium to pin on his or her new badge. Those who were promoted to lieutenant also had pins attached to their collars by Chief Hogan.
The following officers were promoted to lieutenant:
Sgt. Mike Yelton
Sgt. Stony Gonce
Sgt. Bill Wilke
The following officers were promoted to sergeant:
Officer Steve Riddle
Det. Sean Aardema
Det. Mike Lamb
Officer Jay Spinda
Det. Janice Hawkins
Det. Jeff Peterson
Det. Joe Silberman
Officer Geoffrey Rollins
Officer Jonathan Brown
Officer Brett Maltby
Officer Dewayne Greene
Officer Joe Sorrells
Officer Don Eberhardt
Officer Mark Byrd
New APD recruits will begin police academy training in October, Hogan says.
Click here to read more about the Asheville Police Department.
City of Asheville employees turned out on August 24 for a green transportation fair entitled “Put on Your Green Shoes.” The event was geared toward familiarizing city employees with the city’s green fleet of low- and no-emission vehicles, including bikes, an electric smart vehicle and a compressed natural gas car, as well as to learn about and sign up for alternative transit options like carpooling.
Participating employees were also invited to receive free cholesterol, glucose and chiropractic screenings, noted Rachel Doebber of the city’s Office of Sustainability, since changing transportation habits often mean increased activity and improved health.
The event was one in a series of workshops presented for city employee’s in the effort to decrease emissions in the City of Asheville. Several city departments and divisions were in attendance, including the Office of Sustainability, Health Services, Fleet, and Transportation.
The City of Asheville’s Comprehensive Bicycle Plan was adopted by Asheville City Council in 2008 after extensive involvement by the city’s bicycle community. But the input and participation from those active groups and other community organizations continues to be critical to making Asheville more and more bicycle friendly.
“The cycling community really is our eyes and ears,” says Transportation Planner Barb Mee. “We really listen to cyclists. They are the ones that know best what’s out there.”
Multiple resources are available for bicyclists, as well as walkers, to notify the City of Asheville of maintenance needs or improvement opportunities. The Asheville Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force, an advisory group that meets regularly with Mee and tracks progress on the bicycle and pedestrian plans, hosts an infrastructure maintenance request form on its website that Mee can forward to the appropriate city department. The site also hosts an incident report form for anyone who has been in a biking or walking related accident. The City of Asheville email addresses email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org provide other opportunities for people to pass information on to the city.
The collaboration has resulted in steps from turning street-level storm grates so that they don’t hamper bikes to painting bike symbols on the asphalt at select traffic lights so bikers will know where they can stand to activate sensors that change a red light green.
Requests by bicycle commuters also resulted in the installation of bike lockers in four locations downtown: parking decks at the Civic Center, Rankin Avenue and Wall Street, as well as the alcove between Haywood Street and the Rankin parking deck. Each locker is divided into two storage spaces that can be rented for $10 a month. The lockers provide added security, room to store gear like helmets, and also keep seats dry in wet weather. In addition, there are extra bike racks in each parking deck to provide a free, dry place to leave bikes.
The participation of community members is also critical in fine tuning Asheville’s bike accessibility. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force is made up of community volunteers, and will be conducting a bike and pedestrian count in September to provide crucial data. Volunteers from the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club clean the Riverside/Lyman Street bike lane on a quarterly basis, an effort that accentuates the city’s regular street sweeping there. And Asheville on Bikes, a frequent voice for cyclists in Asheville, recently coordinated bike corrals at the Bele Chere festival and at Downtown After 5. The cooperation of multiple groups on education and advocacy makes the bike community one of the strongest voices in Asheville.
“The cycling community has really empowered themselves to be advocates and stewards of our infrastructure,” says Mike Sule, Executive Director of Asheville on Bikes. “They have gotten to like exercising their civic responsibility.”
Another service available to cyclists, runners and walkers is a special commuter pass available through the YWCA of Asheville. The $200 annual pass provides commuters with access to showers, lockers and WiFi. Mee, responding to a growing buzz for such a service, approached the YWCA and says the organization responded quickly to the need.
“We were happy to step up to the plate on this,” says YWCA Marketing Director Ami Worthen. “Our location is such that we are convenient to get to downtown.”
This summer has already seen new bike lanes completed or nearing completion on key connectors like Coxe Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Kimberly Avenue, Asheland Avenue and Hilliard Avenue. And a climbing lane on Clingman Avenue is underway.
“The bike master plan is moving along at a fair clip,” Sule says. “Soon, bikers will be able to use bike lanes to get from one end of town to the other. I think that’s amazing.”
Click here to see more about the City of Asheville’s efforts to enhance bike accessibility in the city.
The effort to address homelessness in Asheville and Buncombe County relies on as many partnerships and as many voices as possible. After all, the motto for the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative is, “Ending Homelessness Together.”
That’s why, on August 13, the City of Asheville, alongside the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Coalition, hosted a landlords’ luncheon at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. The event was intended to supply area landlords with information on how they can help prevent homelessness and to inform them of programs in place, like rent assistance, that provide opportunities to house or retain housing for tenants who are experiencing homelessness or who may be at risk for homelessness.
But, says Homeless Initiative Coordinator Amy Sawyer, a big motive for the event was the opportunity to listen to the concerns, questions and successes of area landlords and include them in the larger homelessness conversation.
“What I think is really great is that it brought together different groups of people who have similar interests but don’t necessarily realize it,” Sawyer said. “It’s really about making connections.”
By Sawyer’s count, 41 landlords attended the luncheon, as well as representatives of partner agencies within the Homeless Coalition, including: OnTrack, Homeward Bound of Asheville, the WNC Community Health Services, the VA Medical Center, the Asheville Housing Authority and Pisgah Legal Services.
In 2005, Asheville City Council and Buncombe County Commissioners adopted a 10-year-plan to end homelessness, an effort headed up by the city’s Homeless Initiative office. The plan coordinates cross-agency cooperation to address needed services to prevent and remedy chronic homelessness in the Asheville area. Key components in the effort include the housing-first model, in which people experiencing homelessness are placed in housing, and preventative steps to address families and individuals who may be at risk of losing their homes.
Sawyer says that it is critical that landlords be aware of the programs available to tenants at risk, their legal rights, and also be brought into the housing-first process.
“If they know that we can actually help tenants pay their rent, that there is assistance there, they can have better relationships with their tenants,” Sawyer says. “And if they develop more personal relationships, they are more likely to accept someone who is participating in the program.”
And, Sawyer, notes, it is important to hear the concerns of landlords in order to tailor the process so the concerns of everyone involved are addressed.
“We appreciate the chance to hear from them on what they feel worked and what didn’t work,” Sawyer says.
The City of Asheville’s Homeless Initiative relies on the input from all parties involved in the issue of homelessness and, in collaboration with the VA Medical Center, will host two events on Friday September 10: Project Connect (8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church of Asheville, 5 Oak St.) and the VA Stand Down (9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Stephens-Lee Rec Center).
Both events will provide onsite, barrier-free services to people experiencing homelessness or at risk of experiencing homelessness. The VA Stand Down focuses on issues specific to veterans while Project Connect is open to the community at large. The events will be held on the same day within walking distance of each other in order for participants to maximize the services available. For example, after receiving veteran-specific services at the VA Stand Down, the individual may then chose to come to Project Connect to receive other broad-based services.
For more information on these events, contact Katherine McCrory, Homeless Initiative Communications Coordinator at 232-4546 or email@example.com.
Click here for more information on the City of Asheville Homeless Initiative and its associated programs.
Going green is big. But sometimes big ideas come in the form of little changes. That’s what the City of Asheville Parks Maintenance staff is finding out as it tries to tweak more of its operations in the direction of environmental sensitivity.
From mop heads to cleaning solution to recycling strategies, the department is finding new ways to make the city’s recreation centers and public facilities run more and more eco-friendly.
“We’re going green,” says Superintendent of Parks Kathy Connor. “The guys have really been working on it, thinking about how they can contribute.”
Already, the custodial staff in the city’s recreation centers have begun using hydrogen peroxide-based solutions as all-purpose cleaning agents. The product is strong enough to handle cleanup at the centers, but is much more environmentally sensitive than traditional cleaning agents. And the new solution is dispersed by a meter that mixes an exact amount each time, saving material costs for the city, Connor says.
And greening the cleaning routine doesn’t stop there; the department recently purchased sustainable bamboo mop handles and fiber mop heads that can be reused more times than the old ones.
Dickey Gentry, custodian at the Shiloh Recreation Center shows the environmentally friendly cleaning system used at all the city's community centers.
The department is also in the process of switching hand drying stations from paper towels to high-pressure blown air dryers. The move, says Connor, saves paper and makes for cleaner restrooms. The switch at Asheville’s McCormick Field is already complete, and the community centers and park restrooms are expected to follow in the coming year.
In each operation, says Labor Crew Coordinator Paul Becker, there is an opportunity to find an environmental twist. A dead tree recently removed from the Burton Street Community center, Becker notes, was mulched for use on trails, as is the practice for branches and leaves collected by the crews. Even the bags supplied at Pack Square Park for dog owners to clean up after their pets are biodegradable.
“We’re trying to do everything we can,” Becker says.
The department is also stepping up recycling opportunities in city parks and public facilities. With some facilities like Pack Square Park already sporting new recycling containers, the department is working to spread the availability to high-impact areas like ballfields and picnic areas. This year, city community centers began using single-stream recycling systems intended to make it as easy as possible to participate in recycling.
“We’re really trying to do different things,” Becker says. “We want people to see Asheville as a great city, and if we can say we’re a clean city and we do things like recycle, we look even better.”
To keep kids safe, police are doing more than community policing and patrolling streets. Detectives in the Asheville Police Department also patrol the high-tech corridors of online communication. The job falls to APD’s Computer Crimes Unit, which was recently recognized in a regional, multi-agency law enforcement announcement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Perhaps the most high-profile mission of the APD’s Computer Crimes Unit is the investigation of online child pornography, from tracing file sharing of photographs to digging out evidence of child exploitation on hard drives seized by law enforcement. “These are serious cases,” Detective Anthony Johnson says. Asheville City Council acknowledged the seriousness of child pornography investigations by supporting efforts to prosecute those cases through Council’s strategic planning process over the last few years.
Detectives Anthony Johnson and Ricardo Martinez surrounded by some of the equipment they use in the APD's Computer Crimes Unit
Taking on cyber cases requires not only technological knowhow, but also the ability to conduct undercover operations online. Johnson’s work in computer forensics factored heavily into the prosecution of the case United States v. Berrell, in which a 29-year old music minister in Asheville pled guilty earlier this year to producing child pornography.
But any case that involves confiscated computers, cell phones or surveillance video is likely to enlist the assistance of the unit, from drug busts to white-collar crime. Operating under search warrants, Det. Johnson and Det. Ricardo Martinez are able to dig out evidence from hard drives and cell phone call lists. Newly installed equipment also allows them to enhance surveillance photos and video, pulling out details that aid investigators with cases.
The push for the establishment of the Computer Crimes Unit began more than five years ago, Johnson says, when the APD still had to ship computers to state agencies in order to retrieve evidence. Now, the unit has state-of-the-art equipment paid for largely by money seized in drug cases.
“We get calls from a lot of agencies that aren’t as fortunate as we are to have this kind of equipment and training,” Johnson says.
With cyber criminals consistently getting more technologically advanced, the detectives have to constantly upgrade their training. State and federal organizations like the National White Collar Crime Center and the Internet Crimes Against Children provide cutting edge training, and multi-state networks and databases help track cyber criminals across the country.
One such network was at the heart of the Aug. 2 announcement by Anne M. Tompkins, United States Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. In the press conference, held in tandem with an announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder, Tompkins highlighted a national strategy to combat child exploitation. The program includes a national database that allows individual departments to easily compare cases and share information.
U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins at an Aug. 2 press conference in the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office.
“Any time we can bring this into the spotlight, its a good thing” Johnson says.
Parents can help prevent child exploitation and online predators by making and enforcing their own rules at home, Johnson says. That includes keeping watch over what and who your children are interacting with online.
Det. Johnson’s suggestions for safe internet use include:
• Don’t let children keep computers in their bedrooms. Opt instead for common rooms in the house.
• Don’t allow private passwords.
• Insist that your children show you their social media activity on a regular basis.
• Install software that allows you to see your child’s online activity.
“A lot of it is just paying attention,” Johnson says. “You may feel like you are intruding, but when you can see what is going on online, it’s worth it.”
With auto companies announcing their intention to roll out new electric cars in the next year, the City of Asheville’s Building Safety Department is preparing for residential requests for Electric Vehicle Charging Stations (EVCS) by examining and simplifying the required approval process.
While electric cars that charge on existing 120 volt outlets will not require any home modification or inspection, many new electric cars will require the installation of a dedicated 110 volt or a 220 volt charging station. That will mean residents need a new, permitted modification to their electrical system. But, says Building Safety Director Robert Griffin, the permitting process has been streamlined so that licensed electricians can install a charging station with minimal delay.
“This is us just staying ahead of the game,” Griffin says. “We want people to know that if they get these cars, the charging station isn’t going to be a problem.”
Building Safety staff have been researching the charging stations and ways to reduce obstacles for electric car owners since a major car company announced last year its intentions to use Raleigh as a test market for a new electric model.
Unlike Raleigh, the City of Asheville will not require the submission of an electrical plan, instead allowing electricians to use a “stand alone” application.
In most cases, Griffin says, the permitting process will consist of a completed application faxed to the department by a licensed electrician and a visit the day following the electrical work by a City of Asheville Building Safety Inspector. For most installations, the application charge will be $78.
“Typically, the work and inspection can have it done in 48 hours,” Griffin says.
The streamlined process is one example of the ways the City of Asheville’s Development Services Center works to eliminate unnecessary delays and complications for both homeowners and developers navigating the permitting process. The move also recognizes the City of Asheville’s commitment to supporting alternative modes of transportation and sustainable energy use.
For more information on the application and approval process for an EVCS, contact the City of Asheville Building Safety Department at 259-5656. To request any building safety inspection, call 259-5946.
On Friday, July 30, about 20 teens and their parents gathered in a room above the Asheville Police Department to graduate from the department’s Junior Police Academy. The free week-long academy is operated out of the APD’s Crime Prevention Unit and gives teens ages 14-17 first-hand exposure to various elements of criminal investigation such as the APD Patrol Division, the K9 Unit, the Drug Suppression Unit, forensics and gang investigation. The program is one of the APD’s many outreach and education initiatives in the community.
For the teens, some of whom want to pursue careers in law enforcement, the academy was an opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of police work.
“I was really interested in forensics, so that was really cool,” said Breanna Quade. “I liked the criminal investigations too. That gives me a back-up plan.”
APD Officer Allen Dunlap said the experience does a great deal to forge positive relationships between the department and Asheville’s young people. It also gives a more realistic impression of police work than the one usually portrayed on television and in movies.
“We do this so we can build lines of communication,” Dunlap explained, “So that young folks can feel like they can make contact with an officer if they have to.”
Each teen received a framed certificate and T-shirt signifying their completion of the program.
The Asheville Police Department hosts a Junior Police Academy each summer, as well as a 12-week Citizens Police Academy for adults in the spring and the fall. The next adult Citizens Police Academy, for participants 18 years old and up, will start on Sept. 14. Those who wish to participate must apply and be accepted.
For more information, contact Officer Dunlap at 259-5834 or firstname.lastname@example.org.