Chapel Hill Police are ‘ALERT’ to March Madness Booze Violations

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.

Police Chiefs from Chapel Hill, Carrboro to Meet With NAACP

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.

Chapel Hill Police Honor Officer in Hospice, as Support Pours in from All Over NC

An effort by local law enforcement to honor a former officer has prompted and 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 to 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 have sent 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.

Chapel Hill Police Seek 2 In September Hit And Run

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.

Thieves Target Chapel Hill Public Library

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.

It’s Halloween!

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

Map of roads that will be closed for Halloween.

Map of roads that will be closed for Halloween.

From the Town of Chapel Hill:

Street Closures

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

Prohibited Items

Town ordinances and State statutes prohibit the following items in the closed area:

Alcoholic Beverages
Glass Bottles
Fireworks and Explosives
Flammable Substances
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 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

Downtown Residents

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.

Chapel Hill PD Releases SWAT Report

In response to public interest in police tactics, following recent events in Ferguson, MO, the Chapel Hill Police Department has released a list of SWAT operations dating back to 2002.

WCHL requested the list to include racial identities of suspects arrested in SWAT operations.

But Chief Chris Blue, who provided the list to WCHL, wrote in an email that he did not “have a report that captures all the demographics of arrestees in all these cases.”

The reports shows that Chapel Hill Police carried out 83 SWAT operations between Jan. 14, 2002 and July 26, 2012.

One well-publicized incident occurred on Nov. 13, 2011, when a SWAT team removed protesters from the Yates Motor Co. building on Franklin Street.

Search warrants accounted for 67, or 80.7 percent of SWAT operations between 2002 and the summer of 2012.

Sixty-one of those warrants, or 91 percent, turned up drugs. Twenty, or 29.9 percent of search warrants, led police to weapons.

Seven out of 67 search warrants yielded neither weapons nor drugs.

Only one operation is listed as a “no-knock” raid. That occurred on Aug. 30, 2011, for an unspecified search warrant at 177 Ashley Forest Rd., Unit A.

Drugs and weapons were seized, and no one was injured.

There were no gun-related injuries listed throughout the report, and few injuries in general. In one instance, two officers were bitten by a pit bull.

In three buy/bust operations, suspects had drugs all three times, and weapons in two instances. Other operations included four-high-risk arrests; one hostage situation; clearing people from a building; and assisting in the protection of Vice President Joe Biden when he visited Chapel Hill in July 2010.

On Oct. 8, 2002, a SWAT team removed demonstrators from Rep. David Price’s office on Fordham Boulevard. The sit-in was staged by protesters concerned about Price’s position on the then-forthcoming Iraq War resolution.

Three people were arrested. A week later, Price voted against the resolution.

CHPD: No Charges Filed In Cyclist Death

Chapel Hill Police say the investigation into a cyclist’s recent death has come to a close and no charges will be filed against the driver in the incident.

On the morning of October 3, cyclist Pamela Lane was hit by a car near the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Hillsborough Street. She was transported to UNC Hospitals where she later died.

Police say she was was traveling southbound on the eastern sidewalk of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and the car was exiting the parking lot of the Mobil station at the Hillsborough St. intersection at the time of the collision.

Lane was reportedly traveling against the flow of traffic when she was hit.

CHPD Chief: We’re Not Armed by Defense Dept.

Chief Chris Blue of the Chapel Hill Police assured citizens at a Saturday forum that his department was not weaponized by the Department of Defense.

“I am not a gun lover,” Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue told a group of citizens at Chapel Hill Public Library on Saturday afternoon. “I carry one for a living. I also respect your right to carry as many as you want, as long as that’s legal to do that.

“But I will say this: I send men and women out into the street to encounter people who may have 50 of those 300 million guns in the back seat of their car.”

On August 9, unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown was shot to death in Ferguson Missouri by Police Officer Darren Wilson. The media images of police on the street in riot gear that followed sparked conversations all over the U.S. about the seeming militarization of law enforcement.

That concern was amplified after the New York Times published data about the federal 1033 program.

“This is the program the Department of Defense runs, to give local law enforcement folks surplus military equipment,” he said. “Some of what you have seen on the news – huge armored personnel carriers, mine-resistant personnel carriers, tracked vehicles, you know, like tank-kind of tracks – the Department of Defense will give you that kind of stuff. We don’t have any of that.”

What the CHPD has, he added, is a 1985 Dodge armored vehicle that has never been used. It was parked outside the library on Saturday, for all to see, after the one-hour-and-22-minute forum was concluded.

According to Blue, the 1033 program also supplied his department boots, raincoats, and filing cabinets. But the department buys its own guns, he added.

The police chief made the point that U.S. citizens own about 300 million guns just like the ones brandished by police back in 2011, during the infamous Yates Motor Company incident.

On Nov. 13 of that year, a Chapel Hill SWAT team, armed with assault rifles and dressed in riot gear, forced Occupy protesters out of the Yates building off Franklin Street.

That incident was a public relations headache for the police department of a town with a progressive reputation; and where most of the reported offenses are property crimes.

“What we’ve done since Yates is that we’ve written a policy for our SWAT team,” said Blue. “We’ve had a SWAT team since 1977. We got a policy written for them in 2012 – should’ve had one before.”

Prior to that, he added, the SWAT team just had a list of procedures to follow.

Blue took questions toward the end of the forum. One person asked if there were enough African-American uniformed officers on patrol in Chapel Hill.

The chief quickly responded there were not, adding that the department had “not done a very good job” in that area of recruitment. He also pointed out that the applicant pool has been declining in general, over recent years.

There are 176 members of the Chapel Hill Police Department. One hundred thirty-one, or 74.4 percent, are white.

Forty black employees make up 22.7 percent of the force. There are four Hispanics, and one listed as “other.”

Town Council Member Maria Palmer was in attendance, and she expressed concern about the mere handful of police officers that actually live in Chapel Hill. Palmer suggested subsidized housing for police officers and other public employees.

Blue was asked for demographic information about people stopped for searches, questioning and arrests. He directed citizens to the North Carolina Department of Justice website, where those records are available. He said the police department is working to make that information more easily accessible.

The chief also described the process of registering complaints about an officer’s conduct. He said that all complaints end up on his desk, and that they are taken seriously.

Blue added there is also a citizens advisory board, although he admitted it had not been granted legal authority to review departmental actions by looking at personnel files.

As a last resort, Blue said, dissatisfied citizens can always go to the Town Council.

Most of the citizens in attendance at Saturday’s forum were members of the Chapel Hill/ Carrboro NAACP, including its president. Minister Robert Campbell.

Blue accepted an invitation to make a presentation at the NAACP’s meeting on the first Saturday in November.

A similar public forum with Chief Walter Horton of the Carrboro Police Department and other town officials is scheduled for tonight at 7, in the Town Hall Board Room.

Carrboro Town Hall is located at 301 W. Main St.

Police Investigate Cyclist Death After MLK Collision

Chapel Hill Police say a cyclist died Friday morning after being hit by a car on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near Hillsborough Street.

The collision occurred just after 9:30. The cyclist was transported to UNC Emergency Department and later died from injuries related to the collision. No charges have been filed at this time. Police say the investigation is on-going.