By Morgan Cook
Leicester – Thursday, July 25, Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller, Buncombe District Attorney Todd Williams, Buncombe County Manager Avril Pinder and several other officers held a listening session at the Leicester Community Center. This was the second of five meetings aimed to allow citizens to inform Sheriff Miller of any issues they noticed within their communities.
Leicester community members filled up nearly all of the seats in the room to express concerns, ask for the sheriff’s opinions and to praise the department’s work.
There were various complaints expressed beginning with a complaint about Parham Road and Gillespie Drive having three drug houses and each time law enforcement was called nothing seemed to happen. Sheriff Miller talked about how he planned to keep an open line of communication, a point that continued to show up throughout the session. He explained that the department would give 30 days and 60 days updates so they could slowly build a good case.
Another man talked about how the Big Sandy Church had its doorknob sheared by a rock and that there were burning papers left on the steps. When the church had contacted the department, they were told nobody could come out. The church had done a bit of its own investigation and found a suspect and had even gotten video footage of the individual. Sheriff Miller attributed this to a communication breakdown and asked that the department be given the tapes and they could slowly build a case.
One lady had come to the session to explain that her home in Alexander Ridge had been broken in to along with another house down the street and an attempt had been made to break into a house with two 14-year-old girls inside. She praised the officers who came to her house but asked the District Attorney Todd Williams if the individuals responsible would spend time in jail or if they would receive a “slap on the wrist” as she put it.
She also asked if the sheriff believed that there were gangs in the Leicester area. The sheriff said that he thought that there was gang activity in the area because the city was expanding into the county, so some of the issues that the city sees are moving into the county but that it was not necessarily involved in her case. The District Attorney did not comment.
Another community member asked Sheriff Miller about his stance on the Second Amendment. He stated that he believes, “you have a right to protect yourself, but when I spoke during the campaign, my concerns are the ARs and weapons of mass destruction.” The community member asked if the permit process could be sped up and the Sheriff explained that he wanted to see the process sped up but that he would stand with what the state said.
Another vital issue brought up by several community members was road safety. Each community member had a different story of how individuals were being unsafe on the roads, and in one extreme example, somebody was killed. They wanted to know what could be done to fix this problem. Chief Deputy Don Ebberhardt talked about his desire to start more road safety initiatives as well as to create a balance between enforcing the laws and also educating the public. Sheriff Miller explained that there needed to be an open line of communication with the community so they could work together.
One community individual wanted to praise the Sheriff for refusing the 287(g) policy, which gained applause from the room. The Sheriff explained that he would not change his stance, which was one point in his election campaign unless the state passed a law.
At the end of the meeting, County Manager Pinder stood to say a few words after the Sheriff thanked both her and District Attorney Williams for coming out. She wanted to make it clear to community members that they mattered and that they made a difference. The last point was a quick reminder about the Citizens Academy, which was a ten-week course that gives information to the community about different roles of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department.