Phone Scams Target County Residents

A flurry of phone scams has targeted Orange County residents in the last several months, according to Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood. Blackwood says the most recent victim lost more than $2000.

“She received a call claiming that she had missed her jury notice and that she needed to pay a certain amount of money to avoid arrest,” Blackwood says. “They told her that they could make the process very simple for her if she just gave them her credit card and routing information. And they did that, and they bled her account.”

Blackwood says his office has received hundreds of calls from residents who received similar predatory calls.

“They vary from the threat of taking you to jail for unserved warrants,” he says, “or taking you into custody for failing to appear for a jury summons, failing to pay your IRS taxes….”

Some calls also claim the recipient has won prize money. But what the all the phone calls have in common is that they all ask for personal information.

“Whenever they ask you for your credit card information, your bank account information or any other personal information that you wouldn’t ordinarily give to someone on the street, you need to hang up and not go any further with the conversation,” Blackwood warns.

Blackwood says residents who believe they’ve been the target of a phone scam should file a report with the sheriff’s office.

How’s Your Internet Access? Orange County Wants To Know

Orange County is looking for your input on ways to improve internet access throughout the county.

Information Technology Director Jim Northrup says officials are trying to address a long-standing problem.

“We’ve known for years that internet does not span all of Orange County,” says Northrup. “We have a new County Mananger and she wanted to put a little more effort into trying to define the problem and come up with a solution.”

Now, officials hope to hear from as many Orange County residents as possible about the cost and quality of their broadband service. They’ve posted an online survey to gauge how you use the internet and where you live. Northrup says that location component is crucial to demonstrate the need to service providers.

“What we’re trying to do is develop a map and then, through public-private partnerships, actually present this map to internet service providers and say, ‘See, here’s 30 potential customers on this map and your infrastructure is only five miles away, why don’t you go ahead and try to supply service to those 30 customers?’”

Take the survey here.

Because this survey is designed to get responses from folks who don’t have adequate internet access, there are paper copies available at the Orange County Public Library in Hillsborough and the Cybrary in Carrboro, as well as a phone survey. Call 919-245-2294 if you need information about where to pick up a paper copy, or if you’d like to complete the survey over the phone.

Northrup says once areas are identified that lack reliable internet access, Orange County may be eligible for state and federal funding to help extend broadband service.

The deadline to respond to the county survey is August 1.

Motorcyclist Killed in Orange County Crash

A motorcyclist died Wednesday after colliding with an SUV in Orange County.

WTVD is reporting the accident occurred just before 11 o’clock Wednesday night on US-70 near Saint Mary’s Road in Hillsborough.

Authorities say the driver of a Toyota SUV pulled into the pathway of the motorcycle from a driveway.

The motorcyclist died after the impact.

No names have been released at this time.

Law enforcement reportedly has charges pending against the driver of the SUV.

Diversity Across the Boards

By Barbara Foushee:

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro/Orange County area has a very diverse population. There are many different cultures and races.

Our local governing boards make decisions that affect all of us and these boards should be a direct reflection of the populations that they serve.

This is not the case.

There is approximately one minority member per local board in this area, which is a good indication that the needs and the concerns of some are not being met. To summarize that statement, there is not adequate representation at the table for everyone when important laws, ordinances, appointments, etc., are being discussed and subsequently voted on.

This troubles me because I know that there have been some qualified applicants in the past and recently that have been looked over in favor of the “status quo.”

I am here to encourage all of you to be a part of your local governing bodies. The decisions that they make will ultimately affect you and your neighbors. Get involved and be the change that you would like to see.

I would also like to challenge the local government entities to take a good hard look at your membership make-up, the efficiency of the board, and whether the board is actually serving the general population or a specific group.

In my opinion, it is definitely worth looking into.

Orange County Food Drive on Wednesday

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office food drive is coming up on Wednesday.

Sheriff Charles Blackwood says the Sheriff’s Office has worked to make donating food as easy as possible this year.

“Citizens can roll in here, make a U-turn, we’ll have deputies standing out to take their contributions,” he says. “They don’t even need to get out of their comfortable air-conditioned cars.”

Blackwood says the summertime can be a big burden on area food banks.

“Some of the school programs where kids usually have a meal provided for them, they’re not able to get that,” he says. “This is a time that we can reach out as a community and do something that helps out those who are less fortunate.

“The school is one issue, but we’ve got many layers of our population in Orange County, and throughout this area, that are unable to provide a meal for their family. And we want to fill that void if we can.”

Blackwood adds a very small amount of non-perishable food being donated can go a long way.

He says they have a lofty goal this year of filling up one of the Special Emergency Response Team box trucks.

“This is not your momma’s mini-van,” he says. “I mean this is a big, big truck.

“We’re talking about a lot of food. This is a chance for our community to step up, and I’m talking about greater Orange County.

Blackwood says the food collected will be distributed between the Orange Congregations in Mission, Efland Cheeks Community Center, and the Rogers Road Community Center.

You can bring non-perishable food to the Sheriff’s Office on Margaret Lane in Hillsborough on Wednesday from eight o’clock in the morning until four in the afternoon.

Hog Day is Here

The 33rd-Annual Hog Day celebration is set to begin Friday night at six o’clock in Efland.

The organization of Hog Day has shifted from the Chamber of Commerce over to the Orange County Optimist Club. Craig Lloyd is the President of that organization and says this is the second year the event has been held in Efland.

“[It’s] Orange County’s largest and oldest continuing festival, which is centered around barbecue; we have tons of arts and crafts vendors,” he says. “We have got a big children’s area, live entertainment, all kinds of other fun and games, [and] a car show.”

Lloyd says the event allows for a wonderful time for the whole family, while all of the proceeds are put back into non-profits in Orange County.

“It being a 100 percent volunteer-led organization now, we have no overhead,” he says. “So the more support we have from people attending, and buying barbecue sandwiches, and participating, the more money we can give right back to our community.”

Hog Day festivities run from six until nine o’clock Friday night and then start again at nine o’clock Saturday morning until three in the afternoon. The event will be hosted at the Efland Ruritan Club on Highway 70 West in Efland.

Click here for more information on Hog Day.

Orange County Opens Cooling Centers To Help Tackle Extreme Temps

As temperatures push past 100 degrees yet again, Orange County officials are reminding residents there are plenty of places open to hide from the heat.

“All the libraries in our communities are open- that’s the county libraries, the town libraries- they’re all open,” says Kirby Saunders, Emergency Management Services coordinator for Orange County. “We’ve also activated our CERT, Community Emergency Response Team. A group out of Chestnut Ridge United Methodist Church in Efland has agreed to stay out there and open the doors of their church to allow citizens to come there.”

Saunders says it’s easier than you think to fall victim to the extreme heat.

“Heat-related injuries usually sneak up on people and it’s hard to identify them when they’re happening to you,” says Saunders. “So the best course of action is prevention, and the best way to do that is to stay out of the heat.”

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include dizziness, shallow breathing, heavy sweating and a fast pulse. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature stays too high for too long. It’s a serious medical emergency that requires immediate attention.

In addition to local libraries, cooling centers are open at the Central Orange Senior Center in Hillsborough, the Seymour Center in Chapel Hill and the Chestnut Ridge United Methodist Church in Efland. Parks and Recreation facilities in Chapel Hill are also available during regular business hours.

Given the heavy demand for air conditioning, Saunders warns there is the possibility of power outages. He asks residents to turn off unnecessary electronics and consider setting the thermostat to a slightly higher temperature.

Orange County Animal Services Director Bob Marotto says pets need help too.

“First and foremost, if we can bring our pets inside into a cool environment, that’s preferable to them being exposed to the blistering heat,” says Marotto.

If you have livestock or other pets that can’t be brought inside, make sure all animals have access to plenty of water and shade. Marotto reminds residents that you see a creature in distress, you can call Animal Services or 911.

“An animal’s life is at risk if it’s left in an automobile in weather of this kind, and in all likelihood, the animal will expire in a very short period of time,” warns Marotto.

Temperatures inside a parked car can reach 160 degrees in just 10 minutes, which can prove deadly for any animal or person stuck inside.

This week’s heat wave is slated to continue through Thursday. Saunders says it’s a good idea to check on neighbors, seniors, or anyone you know who may not have access to air conditioning.

“It’s important to use a community approach and check on neighbors, check on friends, especially the elderly and those who have greater risk of heat-related injuries,” says Kirby.

In recent years, heat-related injuries have caused more deaths than hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. Orange County offers the following tips for staying safe in the heat:

Be Prepared

-Listen to local weather forecasts and stay aware of upcoming temperature changes
-Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
-Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
-Stay indoors, slow down and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day
-If you must work outdoors, take frequent breaks
-The elderly, young or medically fragile are more likely to become victims of excessive heat
-Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat
-If you do not have air conditioning, choose places you could go to for relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day (Cooling centers)
-Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.
-Leave pets at home (don’t even take animals out in a vehicle if you may have to leave them locked inside)
-Ensure your animals’ needs for water and shade are met
-Check on your animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat

Medical Care: 

Recognize the signs of heat related illnesses.

Heat Cramps are muscular pains and spasms that usually occur in the legs or abdomen caused by exposure to high heat and humidity and loss of fluids and electrolytes. Heat cramps are often an early sign that the body is having trouble with the heat.

Get the person to a cooler place and have him or her rest in a comfortable position. Lightly stretch the affected muscle and replenish fluids.

Give a half glass of cool water every 15 minutes.

Heat Exhaustion typically involves the loss of body fluids through heavy sweating during strenuous exercise or physical labor in high heat and humidity.

Signs of heat exhaustion include cool, moist, pale or flushed skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea; dizziness; weakness; and exhaustion

Move the person to a cooler place. Remove or loosen tight clothing and apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fan the person. If the person is conscious, give small amounts of cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Watch for changes in condition.

If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, dial 9-1-1

Heat Stroke (also known as sunstroke) is a life-threatening condition in which a person’s temperature control system stops working and the body is unable to cool itself.

Signs of heat stroke include hot, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; vomiting; and high body temperature.

Heat stroke is life-threatening. Dial 9-1-1 immediately.

Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person’s body by giving care as you would for heat exhaustion. If needed, continue rapid cooling by applying ice or cold packs wrapped in a cloth to the wrists, ankles, groin, neck and armpits.

The Orange County Department of Social Services (DSS) and Department on Aging can assist low-income elderly or medically fragile residents by distributing a limited number of fans and air conditioners for those who qualify. To take advantage of the free fans, please contact the DSS at 919.245.2800 or the Aging Helpline at 919.968.2087.
Additional heat-related and emergency assistance information can be found on the County’s Web site ( on the Emergency Services, Animal Services, Aging, Health, and the Department of Social Services pages.

Carjacking Suspect in Custody

A suspect is in custody after a carjacking in Orange County on Friday.

Authorities say 45-year-old James Patrick Thompson, of Durham, was arrested on Friday evening in South Carolina after stealing a vehicle in Hillsborough earlier that morning.

The victim was visiting from Atlanta to attend a friend’s wedding, according to the Sheriff’s Office, and was traveling on I-85 near the I-40 interchange when she saw a vehicle that had been involved in an accident.

According to law enforcement, she then stopped to offer help to Thompson, who threatened her with a broken bottle, took her vehicle, and left the victim stranded on the highway.

Investigators identified Thompson as a suspect and tracked his movements across the state line. With help from South Carolina state troopers, Thompson was apprehended Friday evening, according to Sheriff Charles Blackwood, with the broken bottle he used to threaten the victim still in the car.

Thompson was being held in South Carolina, as of last update, awaiting extradition to Orange County.

Large Disparities Exist Even in State’s Healthiest County

Orange County children may be the healthiest in North Carolina, according to child-advocacy nonprofit NC Child. But a closer look at Orange County shows that the block you grow up on may matter more than your county.

Orange County is the wealthiest and most educated county in the state, and overall its children are the healthiest. Orange County Health Director Colleen Bridger says that’s not a coincidence.

“The more highly educated you are, the more likely you are to have a professional job that provides you with health insurance, time off to go to the doctor, time off to take your kids to the doctor and a living wage,” Bridger said.

But Orange County’s wealth and college degrees aren’t divided equally among all its residents. Census estimates show wide socioeconomic gaps between adjacent blocks.

“Even though Orange County in the aggregate is doing well, there are pockets of poverty and places where people are struggling that rivals any other place in the state,” Bridger  warned.

Bridger says the greatest health disparities within Orange County often come down to disparities in education. There are areas in the county where two-thirds of third-graders are reading below grade level. The county says it’s working to improve health outcomes by closing the education gap through a project called the Family Success Alliance. The program replicates an initiative out of Harlem in New York City.

“They’ve basically said ‘anything a child needs from before she or he is born to the time he or she has a job after they’ve graduated from college, we want to provide it.’ And so we want to replicate that here so that we are able to ensure that every child in Orange County can succeed, regardless of where they live,” Bridger said.

Orange County Sheriff’s Office Open for Craigslist Deals

Any of us that have dealt with Craigslist have probably felt a bit uneasy about the experience at the beginning.

Craigslist, and other sites like it, allow you to post items you would like to sell – a couch, a truck, a washing machine, whatever it may be – or post objects that you are looking to buy.

You can save some money on certain items, but the drawback is you are dealing with strangers and there is no accountability that exists with in-store purchases.

Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood says concerned calls over these deals come in frequently in reference to horrifying stories from around the country regarding Craigslist postings being used as bait for criminal activity.

“People in turn calls us and say, ‘I’m looking to buy something on Craigslist, but I saw where these people were killed,’” the sheriff says. “We try to explain to them that that’s an older case but, certainly, you want to be cautious and pick the location that you want to have this to take place in.”

If you are feeling a bit cautious about meeting the other party for a Craigslist deal, now you can meet up at the Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s a better and safer way to conduct online business transactions with Craigslist and similar purchases that are made via the Internet,” Blackwood says.

Blackwood says the Transaction Safe Zone has been established to increase the sense of security for the buyer and seller after striking a deal.

“It was a no-brainer for us to try to create a situation where the buyer and/or the seller have that level of confidence that they have a safe place, that is in public, [and] that potentially could ward off anyone who had any ill will to begin with,” he says.

At the request of either party, the Sheriff’s Office is also offering to check the serial number of the item being bought or sold to ensure that it is not stolen merchandise.

You can use the parking lot of the Sheriff’s Office in Hillsborough as a meeting point without notifying law enforcement. You can also come inside to the lobby during business hours. And if you would like a deputy to be with you during the transaction you can also make that request through the Sheriff’s Office.