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Asheville authorities say crime stats don't tell the whole story

Asheville police on Friday released the latest numbers on crime, and the largest city in Western North Carolina is seeing more violence. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Asheville police on Friday released the latest numbers on crime, and the largest city in Western North Carolina is seeing more violence.

A comparison of the years 2015 and 2016 show a dramatic increase in murder, aggravated assault and rape.

Asheville police said the main reason is firearms.

RELATED | Asheville police statistics show increase in violent crime

There were nine homicides last year, a 33 percent jump from the year before.

Aggravated assaults were up by 30 percent, and much of it was confined.

"A lot of the aggravated assault increase was driven last year by a pretty big spike in gun violence and aggravated assault, specifically in some of our public housing, particularly Deaverview," APD chief Tammy Hooper said in discussing what amounted to a 21 percent jump overall in crime from one year to the next.

The chief said the department is focusing on community outreach as summer approaches.

One area of violent crime that's seen the largest increase is offenses committed against women.

Rape nearly doubled. Some 48 cases were reported in 2016. No arrests listed.

But Hooper said that number is deceiving.

"You need to completely separate the arrests from the stats, they are not the same thing," Hooper said. "If we made an arrest in 2017 for an event that occurred in 2016, it's not going to be on that arrest data."

Angelica Wind, executive director of Our Voice (part of the family Justice Center), agreed.

"The zero doesn't really tell the whole story as to whether arrests have been made and whether prosecutions have been made around that," Wind said.

"Were there zero arrests because there wasn't enough evidence? Was there zero arrests because survivors have chosen not to move forward with the criminal justice system? There's numerous different ways and not a lot of it is tied into law enforcement doing their job or not."

Wind and Hooper agree the numbers of sexual assault cases are higher, likely because of places like the Family Justice Center, which works closely with the APD.

"This is a prime example that more survivors are feeling empowered and feel safe coming out and filing reports," Wind said.

Of last year's rape cases, most, the DA's office declined to prosecute; in a dozen, the victim declined; and about that same are still open, awaiting lab results or other evidence, Hooper said.

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