Chapel Hill Police Checkpoint Sparks Chase

Chapel Hill police arrested a man who they say fled from a police checkpoint early Sunday morning.

According to police reports, Victor Emanuel Patrick Lopez of Carrboro made a quick u-turn to avoid a DWI checkpoint at Timber Hollow Drive shortly before 2 a.m.

Police pursued the car with lights and sirens, but the suspect reportedly did not stop until blocked in by patrol cars on Piney Mountain Road.

Sergeant Bryan Walker says Lopez was wanted on felony charges in Chatham County.

“When they did get the vehicle stopped, they seized a handgun from the vehicle, charged the person with carrying a concealed weapon and also discovered that he had a warrant out of Chatham County for failure to appear.”

STORY: Driver Apprehended Going 76 MPH On MLK, Jr. Blvd. Saturday

Lopez is being held in the Orange County Jail on a $100,000 secured bond.

26 officers from half a dozen agencies participated in Sunday’s checkpoint. Officers made five DWI arrests and issued 38 citations.

http://chapelboro.com/news/crime/chapel-hill-police-checkpoint-sparks-chase/

Local Police Plan Public Forums On Militarization Concerns

Images of heavily-armed riot police in armored trucks rolling through the streets of Ferguson, Missouri prompted nationwide scrutiny of a federal program that funnels military surplus to police and sheriff’s offices around the country.

It also has many in Orange County pondering exactly what military equipment has gone to local agencies and why.

In mid-August, the New York Times reported that law enforcement in Orange County received 44 assault rifles and six armored vehicles. The Times has since issued a correction, saying some of the numbers reported were too high. According to the latest version of the Times report, Orange County received only three armored vehicles and 22 rifles.

As WCHL reported last week, Carrboro and Hillsborough police do not have any armored vehicles in their fleets. Chapel Hill has one Peacekeeper armored truck that has never been deployed and Orange County has a V-150 Commando that has been used once to extricate a man barricaded inside a home.

The Sheriff’s Department also has two inoperable armored trucks that supply parts for the Commando, and a pair of five-ton military trucks used to move trees after storms.

No local agency reports receiving weapons from the federal program.

In a joint statement from Carrboro, Hillsborough, Chapel Hill and Orange County, each law enforcement agency reiterated its commitment to community policing and invited public feedback.

Chapel Hill and Carrboro police plan to host a series of public forums to answer questions, though the dates and times have not yet been announced.

Hillsborough police will provide an update to the Town Board on September 8 on revisions to use of force policies and the deployment of new body cameras.

Carrboro and Chapel Hill police are also planning to report to the Board of Aldermen and the Town Council in the next 30 days.

You can read the full statement here:

Joint News Release from Towns of Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough, and Orange County
Responding to concerns from community members regarding ongoing national events around the concept of “militarization” of local law enforcement, county and municipal law enforcement agencies are partnering to provide information about their equipment, training and policies. The Carrboro and Chapel Hill police departments will each hold a series of forums focused on answering questions from the community. Staff members and elected officials will attend the forums to engage in an open dialogue with attendees. Dates and locations will be released soon. The Hillsborough Police Department plans to update the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners and the public on the status of departmental policy revisions including the use of force policy, give a summary and update on use of force statistics, and outline the progress of the body-worn camera project at the Sept. 8 Board of Commissioners meeting. 

All law enforcement agencies in Orange County share a policing philosophy that emphasizes outreach, partnerships, and community collaboration. We listen to our residents, learn from their input, and respond to expectations. The following summarizes the many ways that each jurisdiction approaches community policing and provides transparent, accessible public information: 

Carrboro 

Although the Town of Carrboro does not possess the kinds of armored vehicles recently described in media reports, the Carrboro Police Department is gathering additional information about equipment, training and policies and will share this information with the Board of Aldermen within the next 30 days.

In the spirit of community policing and in keeping with a human services model of law enforcement, the Carrboro Police Department has a lengthy history of community engagement. Recent programs include Coffee With a Cop, Shop With a Cop, Prescription Drug Drop-off events and a Prescription Drug Drop-off Box, National Night Out, an art project to decorate the police station involving students from Carrboro Elementary School and instruction about the dangers of texting while driving in driver’s education classes at Carrboro High School. Programs under development include naloxone deployment and the creation and implementation of an in-car camera system policy in partnership with the ACLU of North Carolina. 

Chapel Hill 

The Town of Chapel Hill Police Department (CHPD) is equally committed to gathering information about equipment, training, and policies and will share this information with the Town Council within the next 30 days. 

The CHPD practices a community policing philosophy that emphasizes outreach, partnerships and community collaboration. As a learning organization, it is committed to continued self-examination, as evidenced by many policy and procedural developments that have emerged from community input. 

The Town’s Community Policing Advisory Committee has been instrumental in providing a regular forum for community input about the expectations of its police department. Through the committee’s work, the CHPD has learned important lessons over the past few years about the challenges of balancing the rights of citizens who are expressing themselves with the rights of those who are encroached upon and protecting both protestors and observers. 

All CHPD officers have been or will soon be trained in crisis intervention techniques, and the department’s Community Safety Partnership Program has expanded to serve as a town-wide community watch. Neighborhood outreach efforts include the Good Neighbor Initiative and National Night Out, both of which provide an opportunity to reach more residents. The Police2Citizen (P2C) website at http://p2c.chpd.us/ allows users to view and map recent arrest records, view daily police bulletins and search for specific incidents. 

The Chapel Hill Community Police Academy http://bit.ly/1nHdYzM regularly provides community members with an “inside look” at how the police department functions. These sessions include a demonstration of the one armored vehicle that the Town does own, together with a discussion of its intended use in rescue scenarios. The CHPD holds annual meetings with local media partners to hear their feedback on how well it is responding to meet their needs. A quarterly professional standards report, capturing the numbers and trends in complaints, is presented to the Community Policing Advisory Committee and made available on the Town website at http://bit.ly/1zytXGr . 

Hillsborough 

The Town of Hillsborough has led conversations over the past several years on the use of force and on concerns over the militarization and perception of the police. Last December, the Hillsborough Police Department hosted a community summit that included a summary of the department’s use of force and a public discussion of a new, draft use of force policy that the department is working to implement. To improve transparency, plans were already in place to include statistics on the use of force in the 2014 and future annual reports. In addition, the police department has tested, purchased and is currently working to deploy body-worn cameras, which the Town hopes will provide better safety and accountability for officers and the public. The department does not own military style armored vehicles of any kind. 

Orange County 

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office is a community service-oriented organization dedicated and committed to the citizens of Orange County. The Sheriff’s Office provides numerous community-oriented services, such as SALT (Seniors and Law Enforcement Together), which provides daily checks on senior citizens, house checks for citizens who are out of town, DARE and GREAT training for school students, Life Track (a technology used for locating children with special needs and adults with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia who wander away from their caretaker), fingerprinting and photos for child identification, field trips at the Sheriff’s Office for local elementary and high school students, meal deliveries for OCIM, an extensively involved Community Watch program, a Domestic Violence/Crisis Unit to assist victims with domestic violence issues throughout the county, and participation in parades and various county-sponsored events. The Sheriff’s Office has participated for over 25 years in the senior citizen May Day Celebration at the community center by preparing hamburgers and hot dogs for the senior citizens. 

The Sheriff’s Office has over a period of more than 20 years participated in the use of surplus federal equipment. Equipment the Sheriff’s Office has received includes four-wheel-drive pickup trucks to be used in inclement weather to patrol, assist fire rescue and EMS, transport emergency personnel to their places of employment (hospital, 911 communications, health care workers, etc.), check on stranded motorists and to serve the citizens of the county by transporting people to and from the hospital and transporting medication and food supplies to those who are unable to leave their residence due to the weather. This equipment has been used extensively during Hurricane Fran and during the numerous winter storms that we have endured here in Orange County. Orange County has one armored vehicle that was obtained more than 12 years ago. It has been used only one time since being acquired by the Sheriff’s Office, during the need to extricate an armed person who had barricaded himself inside a residence in a populated neighborhood. We have two five-ton military trucks that have been used to remove large trees from the county roadways during various severe storms, including the aftermath of Hurricane Fran. Our weapons, such as shotguns and rifles, are non-military county equipment and are never removed from the trunk of the patrol car by any officer unless the situation is endangering the lives of citizens or officers and then only with the authorization of the on-duty supervisor. All of our patrol cars are camera equipped for the safety and accountability of both the officer and the citizen and are deployed on each traffic stop. We continually strive and endeavor to seek any and all methods to assist the citizens of Orange County. We continually train our deputies and stress to them the importance of treating each individual they encounter in the manner that they would wish to be treated. 

Law enforcement agencies in Orange County are open to suggestions and ideas that would benefit the community. 

For more information, contact Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton at 919-918-7397 orwhorton@townofcarrboro.org, Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue at 919-968-2760 or cblue@townofchapelhill.org, and Hillsborough Police Chief Duane Hampton at 919-732-9381. 

 

http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/local-police-plan-public-forums-militarization-concerns/

CHPD: One Armored Truck, No Weapons From Military Surplus Program

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/

OC Leads NC In Military Surplus Armored Vehicles For Police

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.”

You can read part 1 and part 2 of the full response from Chapel Hill police. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office response is available here.

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/

Activists Call For Council Action On Coal Ash Dump

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.

Image from a July 2013 assessment by Falcon Engineering, Inc

Image from a July 2013 assessment by Falcon Engineering, Inc

“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/

It’s Time To Register Alarm Systems In Chapel Hill

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.

For more information on how to register your alarm system, click here.

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/

Missing CH Woman Recently Spotted In Pittsboro

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/

Silver Alert Issued For Missing Chapel Hill Woman

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/

Hedgepeth Murder Documents To Remain Sealed, Judge To Review Case Info.

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 reportedInvestigators 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.

XXX

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.

 

http://chapelboro.com/news/crime/faith-hedgepeth-murder-documents-remain-sealed-judge-review-case-info/

Chapel Hill Hopes Alarm System Registry Deters False Calls

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/