Chapel Hill Police are investigating a pair of armed robberies that took place at Rams Plaza this week.
The first one happened on Monday, October 17, at 7:05 pm at the Better Sleep Store. Two suspects entered the business demanding money; one of them had a handgun and the other had a pair of brass knuckles. They assaulted one employee and stole nearly $1000 in cash, fleeing the scene in a small, dark-colored car. One suspect is described as a tall, skinny white male in a black shirt; the other is a heavy-set black male in a blue sweatshirt.
Then on Thursday, October 20, the Pizza Hut at Rams Plaza was robbed shortly before 10 pm. There were two robbers this time as well, both wearing masks, at least one of them brandishing a handgun; they stole more than 500 dollars.
Suspect descriptions do not match, so police are likely seeking two different pairs of robbers. The suspects in the Better Sleep Store robbery are described as a heavy-set black male and a tall, skinny white male, with a small dark-colored car; the suspects in the Pizza Hut robbery are both described as skinny black males, about 5’10” to 6′ tall, possibly driving a white Ford F-150.
If you have any information, please call Chapel Hill Police at 919-968-2760 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515. Calls to Crime Stoppers are confidential and anonymous, and you may be eligible for a cash reward up to $2,000 for information that leads to an arrest.
How can Chapel Hill prevent itself from becoming the next Tulsa, the next Charlotte, the next Ferguson? Are we taking the right steps now – and what more do we need to do?
Protests are still ongoing, across the state and beyond, after last week’s shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott by a police officer in Charlotte.
The details surrounding the incident are still in question. But Scott’s death (one in a series of similar incidents nationwide) has nevertheless helped spark a conversation about race in America, racial disparities in policing, and the relationship between police and residents, particularly African-American residents.
What are the facts? Numerous studies have confirmed that police departments across the country do, in fact, have a tendency to treat African-Americans differently. (One especially disturbing study out of UC-Davis found that black Americans are 3.49 times more likely than white Americans to be shot by police while unarmed.)
This is not because police officers are somehow uniquely racist. In fact one study by the University of Chicago has found that police officers are less likely to discriminate than members of the general population.
But the disparities persist – and not for the reasons you might think. There’s little correlation with crime rates, for one; police shootings are just as likely to occur in lower-crime cities as higher-crime cities. African-Americans are more likely than whites to have their vehicles searched after being pulled over – but police actually find contraband at a higher rate when searching vehicles driven by whites. (That disparity was particularly egregious in Ferguson, Missouri – where “black motorists were more than twice as likely to be searched as whites following a traffic stop, but were 26% less likely to be found in the possession of contraband,” according to a forthcoming report co-written by UNC professor Frank Baumgartner.) And it’s not just white officers who are discriminating: when it comes to racial disparities in policing, statistically speaking it doesn’t matter much whether the officer is white or black. (It was an African-American police officer who shot Keith Scott in Charlotte.)
What about locally? At UNC, Frank Baumgartner has studied traffic stop data for police departments across North Carolina – and he’s found racial disparities in almost all of them. Police are significantly more likely to search the vehicles of African-Americans and Latinos after stopping them (particularly young men), even though they’re no more likely to find anything illegal. Orange County police departments are not immune: researchers have also found disparities in Chapel Hill and Carrboro as well as the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Charles Blackwood, Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue, and Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton have all expressed concerns about those numbers; they’ve each publicly committed to ongoing conversations with the community and active efforts to study possible reforms.
What’s the best way to make progress on this issue? Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump addressed the question at their first presidential debate on Monday. Trump called for an expansion of “stop and frisk” policies, which give police more leeway to search people on the street – arguing that the policy led to a significant drop in New York City’s crime rate. (New York’s crime rate did drop during the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk years – but the crime rate was also dropping nationwide, and there’s still disagreement over how much of a role “stop and frisk” played in New York. Former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump supporter, says “stop and frisk” made a difference; current mayor Bill de Blasio, a Clinton supporter, says other factors were more important.) Regardless of the impact on the crime rate, though, the “stop and frisk” policy did exacerbate tensions between the NYPD and the city’s black community – because there was a large racial disparity in how the policy was applied. Black New Yorkers were far more likely than white New Yorkers to be subjected to a frisk – so much so that a district court judge struck down the policy as unconstitutional. (The case never went beyond district court, because the city did not appeal.)
Hillary Clinton, on Monday, suggested a different approach. Rather than “stop and frisk,” she said, local law enforcement agencies should focus their efforts on community policing. The “community policing” model begins with a key insight: police officers and citizens often see each other as adversaries because they only encounter each other in moments of conflict, when circumstances are tense and there’s an immediate danger of violence. To build trust and stronger relationships, the community-policing approach encourages officers to engage with residents on a regular basis, in calmer and friendlier circumstances – speaking in classrooms, organizing charity events, getting to know the residents of a neighborhood, and so on. Advocates say that approach will make communities safer: crime rates are lower in close-knit neighborhoods, and people are less likely to break the law when they view “the law” as a friend rather than an adversary. (There’s some data to support the theory: for instance, the national crime rate dropped dramatically during the 1990s, the same time “community policing” became popular – though of course other factors may have played a larger role there.) But aside from the effect on crime rates, community-policing advocates also say the approach will ease tensions between police and African-Americans – and eventually begin to mitigate disparities as well.
Orange County’s local police departments have largely embraced the community-policing model, an approach that local African-American leaders applaud – even though they maintain (and local police chiefs agree) that there remain statistical disparities that still need to be addressed. Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP president Rev. Robert Campbell says Orange County’s approach – going all in on community policing while actively fostering a dialogue about race – could be (and should be) a model for other communities, like Charlotte and Tulsa and Ferguson.
That’s not to say ‘it can’t happen here’ – after all, it can happen anywhere – but Rev. Campbell says the local community is tackling the issue the right way.
Rev. Robert Campbell spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/race-and-policing-are-we-addressing-it-right
Chris Blue is Thursday’s Hometown. He is the Chapel Hill Police Chief.
He’s been the Police Chief for nearly 6 years. There are many reasons to honor Chief Blue, but we want to put the spotlight on his work with Volunteers for Youth. He’s been working with the organization for years. Volunteers for Youth has been helping since 1981. Through the mentoring program, community service program, and teen court program, they work to provide young people with the tools to become responsible adults.
Learn more about Volunteers For Youth.
A big fundraiser for Volunteers for Youth is the annual Larry Fedora Golf Tournament. This year’s tournament is Monday, May 16th. Chief Blue has been working to get the word out about the fundraiser. Find out more about the tournament.
You can nominate your own Hometown Hero. WCHL has honored local members of our community everyday since 2002.http://chapelboro.com/lifestyle/hometown-heroes/chris-blue-hometown-hero
The Chapel Hill Police Department will host its Community Police Academy beginning Tuesday April 5 and now is your chance to apply.
The Community Police Academy is a chance to get an “inside look” at the workings of the police department said Chapel Hill Police Lieutenant Josh Mecimore.
“It’s a good opportunity to spend a few hours on two different days learning about the police department, meeting a lot of our police officers, finding out how we train, who we are, why we do the things we do,” said Mecimore.
Participants will have the chance to do exercises that simulate real police scenarios, learn about arrest procedures and investigative policing over a two day period.
“On the Saturday you’ll get to meet out K-9 units and then learn a lot of stuff about fair and impartial policing,” said Mecimore.
Mecimore said the academy is a great opportunity to have a positive interaction with the police.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for people to learn about us and not have it be like that five minute interaction you might have when you get stopped for a speeding ticket or something,” said Mecimore.
Mecimore said they usually have about 30 participants and afterwards those participants often form a closer bond with the police department.
“We’ve had a lot of fun, I think most of them have enjoyed it. I’ve stayed in contact with quite a few, some of them regularly call to talk about things or to find out what’s going on around the community,” said Mecimore, “So it has been good for us and I hope it’s been good for the people that went through it.”
Anyone over to age of 16 is invited to participate. The application is open until Monday March 14.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-town/chpd-accepting-applications-for-community-academy
During March Madness, Chapel Hill Police have their hands full dealing with lots of alcohol-related offenses.
And every year, the police are well-prepared.
Chapel Hill’s Alcohol Law Enforcement Response Team, known simply as ALERT, was out in force this past Friday night, issuing citations for various infractions.
Lt. Josh Mecimore, a spokesperson for the Chapel Hill Police Department, said it’s typical for the ALERT team to be active around March Madness.
“It’s a group of officers that will come together on busy weekends — game weekends – and then, sometimes, just random weekends for things like alcohol enforcement,” said Mecimore.
Other special ALERT duties include responses to loud parties, and looking out for underage alcohol purchases at convenience stores.
On Friday, police focused their efforts downtown, within the central business district – West Rosemary, Church Street, and East Franklin Street, in particular.
“The majority were for things like underage possession, open container, and a couple of fraudulent uses of ID,” said Mecimore. “One person was charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana, and one person was charged with carrying a concealed handgun.”
Mecimore added that finding concealed weapons is not common to this type of operation.
But it’s not unheard-of, either. He said that sometimes, somebody may have informed an officer of a concealed weapon, but doesn’t have a permit.
Mecimore said that ALERT operations are not necessarily related to just the university’s calendar.
“We also to the same thing with the high school schedules,” said Mecimore. “So, around prom and graduation, and some of the breaks that they take.”
That, said Mecimore, is when the calls to respond to loud parties become more frequent.
Throughout the year, ALE liaison officers train local bartenders in responsible serving practices. That includes learning to spot a fake ID, and knowing when to cut someone off when they’ve had too much to drink.
Over-serving alcohol to a customer is a violation of state law.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/chapel-hill-police-are-alert-to-march-madness-booze-violations
Police chiefs from Chapel Hill and Carrboro will meet with the local NAACP Saturday to answer questions about racial equity in Orange County policing.
The meeting follows up on forums held back in October, after citizens started asking questions about military gear and tactics used by local police departments all over the U.S.
Such issues were highlighted by unrest in Ferguson, MO. over the Aug. 9 death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, who was shot by Police Officer Darren Wilson. The officer was not charged in the incident.
Concerns over policing were also stirred by a New York Times article that shed light on the 1033 program of the Department of Defense.
The program supplies surplus military gear to local law enforcement agencies nationwide. Chapel Hill and Carrboro police have, at times, participated in the program, but did not receive high-powered weapons, according to both chiefs.
Chief Chris Blue of the Chapel Hill Police Department hosted a forum with citizens at the Chapel Hill Public Library on Oct 4.
Blue addressed concerns about low recruitment of African-American officers on his force by saying the CHPD had “not done a very good job” in that area, but he added that applications have been generally declining in recent years.
Two days later, Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton held a similar forum at Town Hall. He admitted that he took exception to questions about racial profiling.
“We don’t racially profile,” said Horton. “To be honest with you, I kind of feel offended by that, because, being the first black chief – I know how it feels to grow up being a black male here. I’ve been walking, and had people cross the street. I’ve been in other places and looked at funny by the police. I know how that feels. So, I would not let that go on.”
Both chiefs have attended Organizing Against Racism workshop training since holding their October forums.
Saturday’s meeting of the Orange County NAACP and the police chiefs of Chapel Hill and Carrboro takes place at noon at the Rogers Road Community Center on 101 Edgar St. in Chapel Hill.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-town/police-chiefs-chapel-hill-carrboro-meet-naacp
An effort by local law enforcement to honor a former officer has prompted an outpouring of support from police officers across the country.
Officer Tom Mitchell was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2011 and medically retired from the Chapel Hill Police Department after 16 years of service.
Friend and former colleague Officer Eric Dallin says the tumor has robbed Mitchell of his short-term memory, but not his love of the job.
“Tom suffers from some confusion sometimes,” says Dallin. “He still believes he’s in law enforcement, even though he has medically retired. He gets up and puts his uniform on to go to work, and his mother has to tell him, ‘You have the day off.'”
This month, after several medical setbacks, Mitchell was placed into hospice care. His mother told friends and family Mitchell had one request.
“She asked him what he wanted for Christmas,” says Dallin, “and he said he wanted ‘the police department.’ And of course, that kind of broke all of our hearts.”
Dallin put out a statewide call to find a way to make Mitchell’s wish come true.
“I thought to myself, how do we grant Tom the wish of giving him ‘the police department’ for Christmas?” says Dallin. “And, basically, we asked everybody in the state of North Carolina, all 100 counties, if they would share with Tom, something that is representative of the word ‘family,’ or something that represents their commitment to serving their communities.”
He says the response has been overwhelming. The department has received everything from patches and badges to blankets, helmets, and handcuff keys.
As the donations continue to pour in, word has spread nationwide, prompting law enforcement officials from across the country to send in mementos for Officer Mitchell.
Dallin says the family is honored by the outpouring of love.
“They are just, really, honored and speechless,” says Dallin. “There are just no words that can explain what that type of support means to a family that’s really struggling with the things that the Mitchell family is struggling with.”
Mitchell joined the Chapel Hill Police Department in 1995. Dallin was sworn in about two years later. He describes Mitchell as someone with a “giant heart,” who’s always among the first to make anyone feel welcome.
The police department is still collecting items, and Dallin says that officers will likely make multiple deliveries to the family in the coming days.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-town/chapel-hill-police-honor-officer-hospice-support-pours-nc
Chapel Hill police now say a man was struck by two cars during a September 29 hit and run incident.
23 year-old Joseph Russo was hit shortly after 3: 30 a.m. on Fordham Boulveard at East Lake Drive. He was taken to Duke Hospital with serious injuries.
Based on evidence collected at the scene, officials say one of the vehicles was a full-size pickup. The other was Subaru Legacy sedan, manufactured between 1995-1999. The sedan likely shows significant damage to the front passenger side.
Russo has been released from the hospital, though doctors say he faces a long road to recovery.
Anyone with information about the accident is asked to contact the Chapel Hill Police Department at (919) 968-2760 or CrimeStoppers at (919) 942-7515.http://chapelboro.com/news/crime/chapel-hill-police-seek-2-september-hit-run
The Chapel Hill Public Library was the target for thieves on Thursday.
Chapel Hill Police Sergeant Bryan Walker says the manner in which the crime was committed is unusual.
“Apparently someone overnight had actually removed glass from one of the doors,” says Walker. “The glass and frame had been removed and was not broken.”
Once the glass was removed someone stole an Apple computer estimated to be worth $2,000 from the library’s teen center.
The crime was discovered by employees when the library opened on Thursday morning. Chapel Hill Police are still investigating the incident.http://chapelboro.com/news/crime/thieves-target-chapel-hill-public-library
Friday is Halloween, and that means one of the biggest parties of the year in downtown Chapel Hill.
About 30,000 people are expected on Franklin Street for the annual Halloween celebration. Franklin Street will be closed downtown from 9:00 p.m. until midnight as costumed revelers take to the streets.
As per usual, the Town of Chapel Hill is trying to keep the party manageable: traffic into town will be restricted, parking downtown will be extremely limited, and Chapel Hill Transit routes will end early. About 400 police officers will be on hand as well, from a variety of municipalities in the area.
WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt about tonight’s festivities.
And Aaron also spoke with Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue about how the department is getting ready – and what you need to know.
For more information on Halloween, including attendance reports from previous years, visit TownOfChapelHill.org/Halloween.
Map of roads that will be closed for Halloween.
From the Town of Chapel Hill:
Southbound traffic on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd will be merged into one lane between Estes Drive and Rosemary Street.
Traffic on E. Franklin Street will be merged into one lane between Estes Drive and Raleigh Road.
Westbound traffic on E. Franklin Street will be merged into one lane prior to the intersection of Estes Drive.
Westbound lanes on South Road will be detoured onto Ridge Road to Manning Drive.
Westbound traffic on Manning Drive will be detoured south onto S. Columbia Street. Northbound traffic on S. Columbia Street will be detoured east onto Manning Drive. S. Columbia Street will be closed to northbound traffic at Manning Drive.
Beginning at about 9 p.m., some downtown streets will be closed to vehicular traffic, including:
Franklin Street, from Raleigh Street to Mallette Street
Columbia Street, from Rosemary Street to Cameron Avenue
Raleigh Street, from East Franklin to Cameron Avenue
Henderson Street, from East Rosemary Street to East Franklin Street
Residential streets near downtown will be closed except to residents of those streets and their guests. View a map of street closures.
There will be LIMITED PARKING available in Town lots close to downtown; there will be no place for charter buses to drop off or pick up passengers.
Vehicles parked on streets to be closed will be towed beginning at 6 p.m.
Vehicles that are illegally parked will be ticketed and towed, with a minimum recovery cost of $105 plus the cost of the ticket.
Media vehicles will not be allowed to park inside the closed perimeter.
For the latest UNC public safety information on Halloween (street closures and parking restrictions) visit www.dps.unc.edu/Postings/breakingnews/viewBreakingNews.cfm
Town ordinances and State statutes prohibit the following items in the closed area:
Fireworks and Explosives
Items, even as part of a costume, which can be used as weapons or could reasonably be mistaken as weapons will be confiscated. This includes items made of wood, metal, cardboard or hard plastic.
Chapel Hill Transit (CHT) will end service early on the D, F, J, NS and NU routes and EZ Rider to accommodate the Halloween celebration on Franklin Street. The following schedule modifications will be in effect:
D Route will end at 8:43 p.m. at the Sagebrook Apartments
F Route will end at 8:45 p.m. at Colony Woods
J Route will end at 8:56 p.m. at the Rock Creek Apartments
NS Route will end at 8:38 p.m. at Eubanks Park and Ride
NU Route will end at 8:29 p.m. at RR Lot
EZ Rider service will end at 8:30 p.m.
All other routes will operate on regular routes and published schedules, although minor delays may occur due to increased traffic.
Safe Ride Buses: Safe Ride buses will operate from 11 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. View schedules and maps of safe ride routes at http://bit.ly/174mvrJ. Safe Ride is a service funded by the UNC-Chapel Hill Student Government for the safety of students. Safe Ride buses will operate along detoured routes. Safe Rides will not serve the Downtown/Franklin Street area. Please be advised that due to road closures and traffic pattern changes, Chapel Hill Transit may be unable to operate its exact published schedules.
• Safe T – pick up and drop off from Chapel Hill Town Hall
• Safe J – pick up and drop off from Passport Motors (Franklin Street at Graham Street)
• Safe G – pick up and drop off from Columbia Street at Sitterson Hall across from Carolina Inn
No Bus Shuttles: There will be no bus shuttles operating from park and ride lots.
Questions: Please contact a CHT customer service representative at 919-969-4900 (press 1) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Town of Chapel Hill will make every effort to keep people who are attending the event from parking in your neighborhood. Access to your neighborhood will be limited by barricades and police personnel at the roads leading into your neighborhood. This will begin early in the evening.
Residents of the neighborhood will be able to drive in and out of the enclosed area. Tell the officer at the barricade where you live.
Your guests will also be able to enter and leave. They will need to tell the officer at the barricade exactly where they are going.
Illegally parked vehicles (even of residents, guests) will be ticketed and towed.
Traffic will be congested and getting past the barricades may be a slow process. We recommend that you plan accordingly.
Yard waste collection will be conducted as usual on Thursday, Oct. 31. Friday yard waste collections will be postponed to Friday, Nov. 8.