Police chief: Crime in Black Mountain trending down
Crime in Black Mountain is trending down, according to Chief of Police Steve Parker.
He said both property and violent crimes showed a decrease in 2022, with a 24% decrease in property crime and a 16% decrease in violent crimes from 2021.
Property crimes involve burglary, larceny, shoplifting and arson. Last year, the police department saw 121 property crimes.
While there was a 16% decrease in property crimes, Parker said the town has maintained that 16% amounts to only one less crime in 2022 than in 2021.
Though property and violent crimes appear to be decreasing in Black Mountain, Parker said there was a 13% increase in collisions in the town.
“We’ve definitely seen a huge influx in traffic,” Parker said. “We’re definitely getting a lot busier. We’ve seen that rise.”
Parker said there were 74 collisions all year four years ago, but that grew to 238 in 2022.
While violent and property crimes are going down in Black Mountain, Parker said it’s not just about what the department is doing, though the department is taking action to prevent crime.
“I don’t want to beat our chests because crime trends are a wave and it depends on what’s going on in the community,” Parker said. “But I can say that we’ve taken a very proactive approach in the past year to try to decrease property crime.”
Parker said one of these approaches is going around and doing property checks at night and making sure doors are locked and letting owners know when officers lock doors for them.
The chief said being more involved in the community helps the public trust the department more.
“We’ve been really heavily involved in community service, and we believe that that has a direct correlation, a direct effect for many reasons,” Parker said. “One, people start trusting us. Number two is if they are comfortable, that gives them the comfort to call us when they see something suspicious.”
Parker started as Black Mountain’s police chief in November 2021. He said when he first arrived, he wanted to do more cross-training of officers.
He said that one of the department’s biggest challenges is staffing, specifically recruiting new officers and retaining those the department already has.
Town Council recently voted to implement a pay study that would allow for a pay raise for all town employees, including police officers.
Parker said improving pay, as well as having a succession plan in place would help the department become more successful.
He said another challenge the department faces is the number of crisis calls answered, especially those involving narcotics.
“We answered over 200 crisis calls (last) year, and those are the most dangerous for the law enforcement officer as well as the person in crisis,” Parker said. “That’s been our biggest challenge.”