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Business advisers pass on crime-fighting role

Bob Papes thinks Hendersonville ought to do something about its crime rate, lack of high-paying jobs and dearth of affordable housing.
Papes, a member of the city’s Business Advisory Committee, told committee members that Forbes magazine and another publication had left Hendersonville off its list of best places to retire because of the city’s crime rate.
Hendersonville gets high marks for health care, job growth, transportation, airport access, volunteerism and walkability but suffers in these surveys because of low-paying jobs and property crimes, said Papes, a business consultant.
Statistics the magazines use showed Hendersonville’s crime rate was 160 percent higher than national average — a figure other advisory board members viewed with skepticism.
“I have a hard time accepting the information,” construction company owner Tom Cooper said. “It just doesn’t ring true to me.”
Papes acknowledged that 94 percent of the crimes were property crimes like burglaries and theft.
“Whether you feel it’s accurate or not, perception is reality,” Papes said. “While crime is outside the mission of our advisory board, crime rate correlates with the economy.”
He got no support when he suggested that the advisory committee form a task force to recommend ways to lower crime.
City Manager John Connet said the police department is already responding to a rash of car thefts, which are usually opportunistic crimes that happen because drivers leave their cars unlocked.
“Not everything is apples to apples,” Connet said. “We’re on the interstate between two large metro areas. We are the urban center for the county. We serve a much larger population. Every time there’s a shoplifting at Walmart, which happens every hour on the hour, it’s considered a larceny. Also we’re high in tourism. We become a rich target for folks who are just lifting handles on doors.”
The city police department launched the “Lock it up, take it or hide it” campaign to raise awareness on how to avoid becoming a victim of theft.
As for lower paying jobs, Connet said that’s a partly the product of an economy with large segments in farming and tourism.
“A major industry in our county is agriculture. It is what it is,” he said. “It has a lot of seasonal workers. And we have a lot of service industry — restaurants, hotels and things like that.”
Cooper said Hendersonville and Brevard aren’t comparable in economic activity.
“Overall, there’s nothing happening in Brevard-Transylvania County as far as economic development,” he said. “Transylvania County’s a lot different from Henderson County. … I wonder how many people are looking to move are looking at that type of information as opposed to word of mouth.”
Realtor Steve Dozier offered anecdotal evidence to rebut Papes’ “perception” that Hendersonville is a crime-ridden town.
“I just sold a house to a couple and they said this is the most perfect place they’ve ever lived in their life and they’ve lived in 17 towns in the military,” he said.