Leadership in Law Enforcement: APD Chief Michael Lamb - TribPapers

Leadership in Law Enforcement: APD Chief Michael Lamb

New Asheville Chief of Police Michael Lamb. Photo Submitted

Asheville – Michaele Lamb, our new Chief of Police for the Asheville Police Department (APD), graciously took time to answer pressing questions many people around town are asking. Chief Lamb has been with the department for 26 years and has risen from patrolman to chief. Despite his gentle demeanor, he is highly skilled and knows how to get the job done.

Is Crime Really Down in Asheville?

Sheriff Quentin Miller claimed that crime is down, but many residents have questioned the truth of that. When asked if it was true, Chief Lamb responded, “Yes and no. The sheriff’s office has different numbers because their numbers are from the unincorporated areas of Buncombe County. APD’s numbers are different.”

According to Lamb, last year in Asheville, violent crime decreased by 9% and property crime by 6% compared to the previous year, but 2022 saw a record number of aggravated assaults. “With 204 assaults in 2022, a record year, of course crime is going to be down,” Lamb said. “We are trending back towards pre-pandemic levels. Hopefully, we’ll get there. Increasing staffing is expected to help tremendously.” Lamb has had personal experience with aggravated assault, as he was once stabbed in the line of duty. In order to curb this type of violent crime, the APD focuses on two things: repeat offenders and areas of high violent crime. In 2022, violent crime was mostly in downtown, “So APD really had to focus their efforts on providing more officer presence within the downtown area, and it has helped,” said Lamb.


Pushing the Problems Out of Downtown

When asked, Chief Lamb did acknowledge that having more patrols in the downtown area has caused some issues to start moving down the Tunnel Road Corridor, the Haywood Road corridor in West Asheville, and to the near north, around Harris Teeter and Trader Joes, but explained that the Tunnel Road area has always been a problem due to the big stores like Lowe’s, Target, Michaels, and Walmart. APD follows the data they receive to deal with the areas that show a spike in crimes. Lamb added, “A lot of times when we see shoplifting, it’s an addiction that drives that behavior. We’ve had officers that have arrested somebody who had either a text message or a piece of paper that said TV, MP3 player, etc. They’ve got the shopping list. So they take the items and take them back to their dealer, and the dealer says, ‘Here’s how much dope you get?'”

Compass Point Village

Speaking about Tunnel Road led us to Compass Point Village, a new permanent supportive housing facility for the chronically homeless managed by Homeward Bound. Converting the former Days Inn into this facility was intended to reduce calls to the APD about homeless issues. It was asked if it was true that APD had to respond to Compass Point Village over two hundred times in the first six months. Lamb answered, “This sounds right,” but he believes that it has changed the landscape of downtown. He explained, “The individuals that Compass Point has taken in were some of the hardest to house, and many of them were those who generated repeat calls. So it is nice to have them in permanent supportive housing. I know it’s tough for Compass Point and Homeward Bound to manage those individuals due to their addiction issues and the allowance for continued addiction. There are pros and cons to this situation. The pros include the positive impact on downtown. The cons relate to the frequent need for assistance.” Lamb believes it is easier for APD to have these individuals in one location, even with high call volume.

Concerning Homelessness

Chief Lamb expressed concern about the safety of homeless individuals, noting the honesty and generosity he has experienced in his interactions with them. “One of our highest victim counts are people that are homeless; because they’re out there, they’re vulnerable. They’re getting their stuff stolen; there’s a lot of sexual assaults with women that are experiencing homelessness. So I think it’s really important for us as a police department to have a good relationship with these folks so that they feel safe to come forward and say, I had my stuff stolen, I got robbed, I was assaulted. We saw that disconnect during COVID, and 2021 was a really violent year for people who were experiencing homelessness.”

Staffing and Pay for Officers

The APD has gone from 80 vacancies to 58. Of the officers hired, three are experienced officers who came here from other cities. There are ten new people in Basic Law Enforcement Training and six in field training. So things are looking up; however, APD pay is still lower than other cities. Lamb said the mayor and city council are working with them on that, and he attributes that to local citizens speaking out.

The Future of APD

Chief Lamb believes the future of APD will be in more and better technology. He’s very excited about the drone program, which allows them to literally see the type of situation the officers are going into, making it safer for them to do their jobs.