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Traffic stops for blacks show increase in Asheville
Tuesday, 02 January 2018 11:31

From Staff Reports

In spite of changes made in the Asheville Police Department to address allegations that it was stopping a disproportionate number of African-Americans, the numbers have gotten worse.

As she was making another bid for a seat on Asheville City Council, Dee Williams, who now chairs the Criminal Justice Committee of the local branch of the NAACP, asked council to hear a presentation by Ian Mance of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. 

Mance, who traveled from Durham, then shared statistics showing that the APD was stopping and searching — by far — more black drivers than white drivers, while finding more contraband on the white drivers.

However, the changes the police made in response to Mance’s report were minor. The APD agreed to conduct internal audits more frequently and report to council, but the APD said it had already deprioritized traffic stops, so that point was moot. Also, the APD had already started wearing body cams and deemed that better documentation than the written consent Williams and others were requesting.

In a recent address to council’s Public Safety Committee, Police Chief Tammy Hooper shared what was expected to have been a progress report. In 2016, 7 percent of drivers stopped by police and 37 percent of persons searched in traffic stops were African-American, she said. In preliminary reports from this year, those numbers had increased to 21-24 percent and 41-49 percent.

African-Americans make up only 12 percent of Asheville’s population, but Hooper was quick to say traffic stops occur mainly on high-traffic corridors, where many drivers are passing through. Corridors with the most traffic stops were downtown, with 111 stops; Kimberly Avenue, with 83; and Charlotte Street, with 34.

In 2016, in defense of law enforcement, members of the public had argued before council that officers were assigned intensive-patrol duty in neighborhoods that had requested it. For example, Asheville’s councils have a long history of asking for more policing for public housing developments. Police gravitate toward calls for service, statistically high-crime areas, and areas where neighbors say they need more security.



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