The Peacekeeper. That’s the popular nickname for the Cadillac Gage Ranger, a 4×4 armored personnel carrier that has made its way from the U.S. military to the Chapel Hill Police Department.
Lieutenant Josh Mecimore says while it’s never been used, it’s important that the department have one on hand.
“It’s something that you don’t need until you need it, and I think for us, being in a situation where we needed it and didn’t have it would be much worse that than having it and not needing it,” says Mecimore.
The 1985 Peacekeeper was decommissioned by the military then transferred to the Durham Police Department. Chapel Hill police acquired it in 2011 using state and federal programs that funnel military surplus to local law enforcement.
In addition to the armored truck, Chapel Hill police have also received military scopes and spare uniforms, but no weapons. Mecimore says maintenance on the Peacekeeper is minimal, and to date it has only ever been used for training.
If it were to be deployed, it would be used as a rescue vehicle.
“That is the reason that we got, that is the way it is intended to be used and the way it would be used if we ever have to deploy it,” says Mecimore. “If an officer is down, or a citizen is down, in an area that is unsafe for us to approach on foot or in a regular vehicle, we would use that armored vehicle to get officers in or medical personnel in to extract that officer or citizen in a safe way.”
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office also has an armored vehicle in its fleet, a V-150 Commando, but Mecimore says the uses of the vehicles are different and the logistics of deployment make it difficult for the departments to share.
“There are always issues with sharing things, because who is responsible for the upkeep, who is responsible for getting it to us when we need it? How far away is it? Is it in Hillsborough where the Sheriff’s Office is? Are you going to drive it 15 or 20 minutes and delay a response?”
Programs that transfer military surplus to local law enforcement have come under fire recently in the wake of the heavily-armed police response to protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.
The New York Times last week published information showing that nearly every county in North Carolina has received military surplus through the federal 1033 program. Law enforcement agencies based in Orange County have reportedly acquired 44 assault rifles and 6 armored vehicles, but it’s not clear which agency has what.
Mecimore says he can only account for what Chapel Hill Police have received: “I know they didn’t come here.”
Elected officials in Chapel Hill and Carrboro have said they plan to release more information on how military surplus is being used by local law enforcement. That report is forthcoming.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/chpd-one-armored-truck-weapons-military-surplus-program/
According to Department of Defense data published last week by the New York Times, law enforcement agencies in Orange County have acquired more military surplus armored vehicles than any other county in the state.
In the wake of the heavily-armed police response to protestors in Ferguson, Missouri, a federal program to direct military surplus to local law enforcement agencies is coming under renewed scrutiny. The 1033 program dates back to 1997. In the last year alone it funneled nearly half a billion dollars worth of military gear to police departments and sheriff’s offices across the nation.
Since 2006, Orange County law enforcement has acquired six armored vehicles using the 1033 program, according to the Times. By comparison, Wake County, with a population of just under one million, received only two armored vehicles, while Durham County, with twice the population of Orange, received none. Only 16 of North Carolina’s 100 counties purchased armored vehicles of any kind using the federal program. Stanly, Cabarrus and Davidson counties each boast four.
But it’s not entirely clear which Orange County law enforcement agencies have armored vehicles in their fleet, as the data provided by the Times doesn’t distinguish between local and state agencies in the area.
In 2013, as part of a nationwide investigation into the militarization of local police, the North Carolina chapter of the ACLU requested information from the state’s 60 largest police and sheriff’s departments regarding equipment procured using the 1033 program. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Chapel Hill Police Department were on that list, but because of their smaller size, Carrboro and Hillsborough police were not.
Orange County Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass responded to the query with a letter stating that the department has one armored vehicle in its fleet, a V150 Commando, that was acquired using the federal program in 2007. He noted it was purchased for incidents involving barricades or hostages and that it requires express approval of the Sheriff to be deployed. To date it has not been used.
The Chapel Hill Police Department’s senior legal advisor replied simply that the department has “no documents responsive to this request.”
UPDATE 11:55 A.M.: Chapel Hill Mayor Pro Tem Sally Greene told WCHL that she planned to meet on Monday afternoon with Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt; Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue; and Town Manager Roger Stancil to discuss the New York Times report.
Greene said to expect a “coordinated statement” sometime this week.
UPDATE 2:12 P.M.: Carrboro Alderperson Damon Seils told WCHL that Police Chief Walter Horton informed him that the Carrboro Police Department does not participate in the 1033 program, although it “may have in the past.”
Seils said that more information will be available in the coming days, as the Town of Carrboro will also release a statement to the public.
Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens posted on chapelboro.com that his town’s police department does not own any armored vehicles.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/orange-county-leads-nc-military-surplus-armored-vehicles-police/
Stefan Klakovitch, with the group Friends of Bolin Creek, came before the Chapel Hill Town Council on Wednesday to ask the town to take action to clean up a coal ash dump recently discovered under the Chapel Hill Police Department Headquarters adjacent to Bolin Creek.
“As with many other landfills in the State of North Carolina, this landfill is totally unregulated, unlined, and contains known hazardous substances including heavy metals that have leached out into the environment and will continue to do so until the dump is removed,” said Klakovitch.
The site was used as a dumping ground for coal ash in the 1960s and 70s, before the town purchased it in 1980 to build the police station at 828 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
An engineering consultant hired by the town last year reported high levels of arsenic, barium, chromium and lead in groundwater samples from one of two testing wells, as well as elevated levels of barium in soil samples across the site.
The Friends of Bolin Creek say they are concerned that the town is not currently planning to clean up the coal ash dump and they worry contaminants will leach in to the creek if the dump remains in place.
But in a letter to the Town Council, officials from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) say the recent findings have been misconstrued.
They say there’s no evidence contamination has spread to the surface waters of the creek and called for repeated sampling to confirm if heavy metals have in fact leached into the groundwater.
The town will be required to submit a remediation plan to the state once the investigation is complete, but Klakovitch and others question DENR’s approach, saying the regulatory agency has lost credibility following the Dan River Coal Ash spill in February.
“We need to do more than just what will merely satisfy DENR, whose reputation on coal ash has been discredited on a national level,” said Klakovitch.
Still, town staffers stress the investigation has just begun, arguing it is too soon to determine what should be done with the site. In the meantime, the town has installed silt fencing above Bolin Creek to keep the coal ash out the water and security fencing to keep out the public.
DENR officials will provide recommendations to the council when review of the latest round of testing is complete.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/activists-call-council-action-coal-ash-dump/
Police and fire officials are reminding the community that it’s time to register all alarm systems, both residential and commercial, in Chapel Hill, per a new town ordinance.
It’s free to register, but if you don’t by July 1, you’ll have to pay a penalty. Too many false alarms will equal fees as well.
“Legitimate alarms, of course, we want to go to. It is the accidental alarms that take up a lot of our time and tie up equipment and people unnecessarily,” said Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue.
The goal of the program is to track the number of accidental alarms, which have caused public safety officers problems in the past.
Blue said that research revealed Chapel Hill police officers and firefighters were responding to about 5,000 alarm calls each year. About 95 percent of those calls were accidental alarms, which were proving to be costly for local law enforcement and more importantly, tying up public safety resources.
“Educational campaigns and problem-solving efforts to reduce those activations has not been effective,” Blue said. ”We’ve reach out to people. We have tried to help them mitigate their problems, but we still see numbers in the thousands [of false alarms] every year.”
That’s why Blue worked with Fire Department Chief Dan Jones to establish the ordinance, which was passed by the Town Council in October of last year.
The Town will begin tracking the number of accidental alarms on July 1. Fire and Police alarms will be tracked and counted separately.
People who don’t register their alarm systems by the July 1 deadline will face a $100 penalty.
If a registered alarm user has four or more accidental alarms during a 365 day period, it will result in a series of graduated fines, ranging from $100 to $500 for each violation.
Fee schedule for accidental alarms:
1 – 3: No fine
4 & 5: $100 each
6 & 7: $200 each
8 & 9: $300 each
10 + : $500 each
“The goal here is not to send bills out or to generate revenue. The goal is to reduce emergency response unnecessarily,” Blue said.
Matt Lawrence, CHFD Deputy Fire Chief, said that this ordinance does apply to UNC.
“We’ve work very closely with both the University and the hospital to work through their interests and what their concerns were and moving toward solutions to make our response to their locations better,” Lawrence said.
Blue said that the fees from the program will help to offset the cost of the third-party vendor, Cry Wolf, which will handle the registration process and track the number of false alarms through its software. Municipalities such as Durham and Burlington already have similar programs.
“The good news is other than the staff time to do the research on the ordinance, there really haven’t been any significant costs,” he said.
Notable: In 2012, the Police Department responded to 3,630 alarm calls at a cost of $75,213, per the Town’s research. In 2012, the Chapel Hill Fire Department responded to 1,250 alarm activations at a cost of $122,400. Police Department routine alarm responses include at least two officers while Fire Department response include three to four fire apparatus with up to 10 firefighters.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/time-register-alarm-systems-chapel-hill/
Police say a Chapel Hill woman who has been missing for close to a month was spotted in Pittsboro recently.
Sergeant Bryan Walker of the Chapel Hill Police Department says that authorities haven’t been able to contact Kathryn Loreena Perkins since she went missing and still consider her to be endangered.
Perkins, 51, has medium-length red hair, stands at 5’7”, weighs 135 lbs., and has hazel eyes. She is believed to be suffering from dementia or some other cognitive impairment.
Walker says Perkins was seen in Pittsboro on April 5. He does not have information as to whether she was alone or accompanied.
Walker says a citizen reported the sightings.
“She was just seen at a couple of locations in Pittsboro, one being a church I believe and then possibly a grocery store,” Walker says.
Perkins was last seen in Chapel Hill in a white passenger car with two Hispanic males on Homestead Rd. on March 29.
“We don’t have any new information that leads us to believe that she is any more in danger than the original report, but until we can speak with her or a law enforcement officer can speak with her and confirm that, we have to assume that she is still endangered.”
If you have information concerning Perkins or her whereabouts, please call the Chapel Hill Police Department at 968-2760 or 911 immediately.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/missing-ch-woman-recently-spotted-pittsboro/
A silver alert has been issued for a missing endangered woman, Kathryn Loreena Perkins, of Chapel Hill.
Perkins, 51, was last seen in a white passenger car with two Hispanic males on Homestead Rd. on March 29, according to Chapel Hill Police.
She is believed to be suffering from dementia or some other cognitive impairment.
Police say she has medium length red hair, stands at 5’7”, weighs 135 lbs., and has hazel eyes.
If you have information concerning Perkins or her whereabouts, please call the Chapel Hill Police Department at 968-2760 or 911 immediately.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/silver-alert-issued-missing-chapel-hill-woman/
A Durham Court judge denied a motion to unseal search warrants and 911 calls regarding the unsolved murder investigation of UNC student Faith Hedgepeth, the Durham Superior Court Clerk’s office confirmed.
Hedgepeth, 19, was found murdered in her off-campus apartment on September 7, 2012. The apartment complex was inside Durham County lines. Authorities have said they don’t believe the crime was a random act, thought they haven’t disclosed how she was killed or information about possible suspects.
For 18 months, Durham District Attorney Leon Stanback has requested that the court to reseal the documents, which were sealed three days after Hedgepath’s death, to keep from “compromising the investigation.”
According to the state’s motion to keep the documents sealed, there were search warrants for a 1977 Honda Accord, a unit in Hedgepeth’s apartment complex and her own apartment, WNCN reported. Investigators also searched a laptop and a Facebook account.
Stanback told WCHL News in September of 2013 that he would seek to keep the documents sealed for as long as the courts allow.
Superior Court Judge Howard Manning said Wednesday that the documents, including the autopsy report, would remain sealed until he reviews them, without specifying how long the process would take, according to multiple news outlets.
Earlier this month, several Triangle media companies filed a motion asking the court to unseal the case documents, which was heard in court Wednesday.
The Durham District Attorney’s Office will prosecute a suspect, should any arrests be made, though the Chapel Hill Police Department is the investigating agency.
On January 8 of this year, the CHPD released details of the investigation, including DNA of a male suspect found at the scene.
Chapel Hill Police continue to express that this is not a cold case and that it is continuing to follow leads.
The Daily Tar Heel reported this week that police did not request video evidence that might have revealed information about the hours leading up to Hedgepeth’s murder.
On the evening of her death, Hedgepeth and her roommate went to The Thrill, a bar on E. Rosemary St. George King, the owner of George’s Towing and Recovery, has more than a dozen video cameras in the area, which could have captured footage of Hedgepeth leaving the bar, though it is recorded over every few weeks.
But King said Chapel Hill Police never requested footage collected on his cameras the night she was found murdered, according to the Daily Tar Heel.
Authorities continue to seek any information that could help in the investigation. Anyone with information should call the Chapel Hill Police Department at 919-614-6363 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515.
A reward up to $39,000 is available to anyone with information that can help solve the case.
CHAPEL HILL- Starting soon, the Town of Chapel Hill will require all residents and business owners to register their security alarm systems.
This is the first step in a new program designed to reduce the number of false alarms the town’s emergency personnel respond to.
In 2012, police and fire fighters responded to nearly 5,000 alarm calls at a cost of $197,000. But officials say that’s a waste of time and money, as about 95 percent of alarm dispatches turn out to be unfounded.
Last October, the Town Council approved a plan to charge a series of graduated fines to those who report multiple false alarms.
While the town is not yet registering alarm systems, officials are working to hire an independent vendor to run the registration system. Police and fire representatives will be educating the public on how to prevent false alarm activation once that registration system is up and running.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/chapel-hill-hopes-alarm-system-registry-deters-false-calls/
CHAPEL HILL- Chapel Hill Police need your help identifying a man who robbed the Family Fare BP at 1201 Raleigh Road on Monday afternoon.
Investigators say a man entered the business just before 2 o’clock, brandished a knife at an employee, demanded money and fled on foot.
The suspect is described as a black man in his mid-forties with black hair, brown eyes, and a thin goatee.
If you have any information, call Chapel Hill Police Department at 919-968-2760 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515. Calls to Crime Stoppers are confidential and you may be eligible for up to $2,000 for information leading to an arrest. You can also submit tips online at http://www.crimestoppers-chcunc.org/.http://chapelboro.com/news/crime/chapel-hill-police-search-gas-station-robber/
CHAPEL HILL – The Chapel Hill Police Department needs your help finding the suspect of a larceny from a person last week at the Chapel Hill Public Library.
The suspect took a person’s purse into the men’s bathroom, removed cash, and threw the purse away before fleeing the building.
Authorities are looking for a black male with short hair and a slim build. At the time he was wearing a dark hooded jacket, dark pants, and light running shoes.
If you can assist Chapel Hill Police in finding this person, please call Investigator Bolden at 919-968-2870 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515. Calls to Crime Stoppers are confidential and anonymous. Information leading to an arrest could receive a cash reward up to $2,000.http://chapelboro.com/news/crime/chpd-seeks-chpl-larceny-suspect/