CHPD Seeks CHPL Larceny Suspect
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.
Franklin Street From Estes Dr to Elliott Rd Closed – Natural Gas Leak
CHAPEL HILL – Chapel Hill Police Sgt. Bryan Walker confirmed Wednesday at 10:35 a.m. that Franklin Street was closed in both directions between Estes Dr and Elliott Rd for a natural gas leak.
Sgt. Walker said he was unaware of any evacuations in the area. EMS and gas crews were on the scene managing the incident.
CHPD Seeks Additional Help From SBI In Hedgepeth Investigation
CHAPEL HILL – The Chapel Hill Police Department has asked the State Bureau of Investigation for additional help in the murder of UNC student Faith Hedgepeth.
The Chapel Hill News reports that SBI spokeswoman Jennifer Canada confirmed in an email that Police Chief Chris Blue requested the help from the SBI in the off-campus murder. The SBI served a limited role in the early parts of the investigation, including the discovery of a male suspect’s DNA and a profile of that person.
Hedgepeth was found dead in her apartment on September 7 of last year at the Hawthorne on the View complex on Old Chapel Hill Road.
The investigative documents and 911 calls have been sealed by court order since the murder. On September 30, Durham County Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson signed a 60-day order to reseal the documents for the fifth time.
Gunshots Fired Saturday; CHPD Seeking Info
CHAPEL HILL – Chapel Hill Police are seeking information in a shooting incident that took place on Walnut Street last Saturday evening.
Sometime between 5:00 and 7:26 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, an individual fired a single bullet into a residence on Walnut Street. Nobody was in the residence at the time, though, and there were no injuries.
If you have any information about the incident, please contact the Chapel Hill PD at 919-968-2760, or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515. Calls to Crime Stoppers are confidential and anonymous, and callers may receive a reward up to $2,000 for information leading to an arrest.
You can also leave tips for Crime Stoppers at http://www.crimestoppers-chcunc.org/
Social Media Uses In Local Gov’t Vary
CHAPEL HILL – As technology becomes increasingly important in today’s society, several branches of the local government are turning more to social media to communicate with the public—but some officials are still cautious about making the shift.
For the Chapel Hill Police Department, Sgt. Josh Mecimore says officers are primarily focused on using Twitter instead of Facebook for up-to-the-second news.
“In the past, we’ve kind of put out the same content on both services,” he says. “Moving forward, I think you’ll see more of the current events and up-to-the-minute kinds of things on Twitter, and then we’ll use Facebook for more of the information about ongoing investigations, trying to elicit information from the public, and more detailed information about things we’re doing around town.”
Mecimore says the CHPD’s Twitter page seen particular success when it comes to traffic enforcement announcements.
“When we put out that our traffic enforcement is out doing doing speed enforcement or stop sign violations in a particular part of town, that’s one of the things that gets re-tweeted the most by people,” he says. “That seems like it’s of great interest of people, and they want to send it out to their followers so that they know we’re doing speed enforcement somewhere and we’re not trying to hide it.”
But unlike Chapel Hill, the town of Carrboro hasn’t set up social media sites for law enforcement.
“The town has a Facebook and Twitter account, but there’s not a separate one for the police department at this time,” says Lt. Chris Atack of the Carrboro Police Department. “So, if there’s any sort of information that needs to go out about upcoming events or other public safety issues, we usually use those two outlets.’
Still, Atack says the idea isn’t off the table for some point in the future.
“It’s been an avenue we’ve been looking at for a period of time because there are obviously departments in the area that have Facebook presence specifically, and there’s certainly usefulness in that application,” he says. “So that’s something we’re exploring.”
For the Town of Hillsborough, Facebook has been a useful tool in the apprehension of suspects. According to the town’s website, in March 2012, officers started using Facebook to request tips from the public—since that time, 14 posts have resulted in suspect identifications or arrests. Facebook tips have also led officers to recover numerous stolen items.
Meanwhile, in the educational branch of local government, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Board member James Barrett says while social media can be valuable, it’s not without its risks.
“I think the biggest risk is that it’s very easy to say something that could be taken out of context,” he says. “As is the case with really all electronic communication, there’s no tone, so people lose that perspective on what’s being said.”
The Chapel-Hill Carrboro City School district does have both a Twitter and a Facebook page, but Barrett says right now, the board’s members are leaving most social media projects to district Executive Director of Community Relations Jeff Nash.
“I think Mr. Nash is certainly cognizant of trying to communicate with people more, and so I think he’s looking for ways to do that, but I don’t think it’s been a serious push of the board.”
But Barrett, who recently wrote a blog post on the growing role of social media in local governments, says he acknowledges the importance of social media for the district, especially for sharing images.
“I think particularly our Facebook presence allows us to share photos,” he says. “It’s been great for people to see pictures of things like Northside Elementary going up, for example. We’re definitely moving in the right direction.”
Police Dogs Play Key Role In Drug and Bomb Detection
CHAPEL HILL – Local law enforcement keep the community safe but they don’t do it alone. Working alongside the officers are the dogs of the K-9 Units. They hunt-down suspects, search out drugs and detect bombs.
“It’s vital to the safety of all of our officers,” said Sergeant Gabe Shinn of the CHPD.
“It’s crucial that we have the dogs to find somebody hiding somewhere, particularly if they want to do us harm. Dogs can sniff out suspects hiding in a wooded-setting, in buildings, or anywhere really. The dogs have the ability to detect that odor long before we see that person—because we may not see them,” he said.
Shinn says the CHPD has three drug-detecting and pursuit trained dogs with a keen sense of smell that’s more significant than their ferocious bites. They are not trained in bomb detection.
Environmental conditions can throw the dogs’ scent-tracking skills. It’s easier for them to pick-up a trail in colder conditions. When it’s hot, Shinn says it’s crucial for the dogs to get to a crime scene as soon as possible because odors will dissipate quickly.
“We want to use the dogs anytime we can. It’s an unpredictable job. We don’t know what we maybe walking in to. We don’t know what may be waiting around the corner,” Shinn said. “It’s better for us to know it before hand than to find out when we are right on top of it.”
The dogs can also move fast. Shinn says in a foot-chase situation, he has never seen a suspect out-run a police dog.
The CHPD’s three dogs are named MJ, Jax, and Kernie; MJ lives with Shinn, and the other dogs live with officers as well. Shinn explains this encourages strong relationships between the dogs and their handlers.
CHPD has the budget for a total of four dogs. With MJ is retiring soon, Shinn says they’ll bring-in two more dogs sometime this year.
But police dogs are expensive, costing upwards of $10,000. However, the CHPD’s dogs were bought from private donations.
Shinn says police dogs are usually brought over from Europe, the breeds being German and Dutch Shepherd, and Belgians Malinois.
The dogs complete 14 weeks of training before going out in the field. They additionally train every week to keep their skills refined.
The UNC Department of Public Safety’s K-9 unit is made-up of Buddy, who’s been with them since August of 2007.
Buddy specializes in bomb-detection.
Randy Young of UNC DPS explains their K-9 Unit began in 2004. Young says like other police dogs, Buddy is great with people but is all business during high-profile community events like football games.
“He’s also extremely professional when he needs to be and is viewed as just like any of our other officers here,” Young said.
Buddy is trained in the identification of 25-30 different chemicals essential in most explosive devices. UNC DPS lends him out to other jurisdictions for big events.
His handler, Officer Jeff Mosher, trains Buddy twice a month.
CHPD’s Crime Simulator Put Citizen’s Police Academy Attendees In Action
CHAPEL HILL – The Chapel Hill Police Department welcomed the public Wednesday night to the annual Citizen’s Police Academy.
16-year-old Ryan Winstead attended because she’s watched all the crime shows on TV—but wanted to see what it’s really like to be a police office.
She was the first attendee to raise her hand to participate in the crime-situation simulator, which put the East Chapel Hill high school student in the middle of a domestic dispute. Acting as the officer, Winstead faced a drunken woman charging at her with a knife.
“Now I’m not just like, ‘Oh, they’re just protecting people.’ I understand now— it’s really intense!” Winstead said.
Officers invited others to give the simulator a try. Participants learned just how difficult it is to act as a police officer and then react in a matter of seconds.
CHPD trains on the simulator, which is made up by a projector and a big screen. The interactive program responds to the actions of the person doing the exercise.
Another simulation involved a suicidal man shooting at the officer and then shooting himself.
“You see thing is CSI like that but being in the situation is totally different. You realize at that point that you have to be aware of everyone else and not just yourself. You have to protect everyone else,” Winstead said. Investigator Johnnie Britt
Other topics covered included equipment demonstrations, arrest procedures, magistrate dealings, and a crime scene and forensic evidence overview.
This year’s Citizen’s Police Academy had a different set-up than in years past. Srgt. Josh Mecimore says the CHPD worked with students from UNC’s School of Government to condense the program.
“It gives them a lot of information in a really short amount of time and I think it gives them a really good insight into the daily workings of the police department,” Srgt. Mecimore explained.
Officers also shared their personal stories, getting candid about the dangerous situations they’d been through. CHPD Police Chief Chris Blue
Attendees had the chance to ask officers questions after their presentations. Jim Ward of the Chapel Hill Town Council and James Barrett of the Chapel Hill Carrboro Schools BoE showed their support by participating.
“A big part of it is to meet a lot of the people and get them involved in what we do. A lot of what we do relies on community involvement,” Srgt. Mecimore said.
WCHL will attend Sunday night’s session of the Citizen’s Police Academy; listen in on Monday for a full-recap.
Citizen’s Police Academy: An Action-Packed Two Days To Come
CHAPEL HILL- The Chapel Hill Police Department will meet in April to host its third annualCitizen’s Police Academy.
Public Information Sergeant for the Chapel Hill Police Josh Mecimore comments on what participants gain from the academy.
“The purpose of it is to give citizens in the community an opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a police officer,” says Mecimore. “Citizens will see what a day in the life of a Chapel Hill police officer is.”
The academy is a two-day event held over three days with two week night sessions and one Sunday session. Applicants will be broken up into two groups and each group will attend one week day session either on Wednesday, April 24 or Thursday, April 25. Attendees will meet from 6:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. On Sunday, April 28 both groups will attend from 1:00 p.m. until 5:45 p.m.
Mecimore says the short schedule will be action-packed, but beneficial.
“We are trying to give a full picture of the police department in just those two days rather than stretching it out over a long period,” says Mecimore. “We’re hoping that by shortening it and by only giving vital content we will get more people involved and people can get more out of it.”
The academy will include interactive sessions involving the simulation of various scenarios, a walk through of the arrest process, several discussions on use of force, canine demonstrations, social and mental health issues, equipment display, internal affairs, and emergency response capabilities.
Participants have the chance to give feedback on the academy.
“We’re going to give people cards at the beginning and then they can write down thoughts that they have,” says Mecimore. “We will deal with a question and answer/commenting at the end. Then on Sunday we will have a graduation ceremony and then an opportunity for people to hang out and ask questions.”
The first two days will be held at the CHPD on Martin Luther King Blvd. and on Sunday will be at the CHPD Public Works Facility off of Millhouse Road.