Chapel Hill Police Remind Residents To Lock Up

A flick of the wrist might keep you from falling victim to one of Chapel Hill’s most common crimes.

Lieutenant Josh Mecimore says many larcenies and burglaries happen because citizens leave doors unlocked, making it easy for thieves to steal.

“We had a number of break-ins that involved either unlocked vehicles or people going into garages and taking items where the garage was left open overnight,” says Mecimore.

Chapel Hill police say thieves will often walk through yards, driveways and parking lots trying door handles until they find an unlocked car or garage. Mecimore reminds residents to lock up everything, including cars, houses, windows and garages.

“What we encourage people to do is make your house, your vehicle, your property a harder target than someone else’s, so that you’re not the person that a criminal chooses to victimize.”

According to the North Carolina Department of Justice, there were 3,500 property crimes reported in Orange County in 2012, the last year for which statistics were available.

If you’re interested in more safety tips from Chapel Hill Police, you can contact the Community Services Unit at (919) 932-2929.

Another Chapel Hillian To Help Fight Ebola?

Another medical professional with ties to Chapel Hill may be heading to Africa to help in the fight against the Ebola virus.

Chapel Hill native Anna Freeman is a nurse with Doctors Without Borders, which says its mission is to serve areas where there is the greatest need.

Freeman was a nurse at UNC Hospitals before applying to work with DWB. She worked in post-surgical care of children with heart defects.

“One thing that I find very rewarding about nursing work—working as a bedside nurse—is working with somebody who finds themselves in a situation often out of their control that can be very difficult to deal with either physically or emotionally, or often both,” Freeman says.

Freeman says she felt drawn to areas known as conflict, post-conflict, and intermittent-conflict zones, or areas struggling with epidemic diseases. She says there was an urge to help those who couldn’t always help themselves.

“Very often, people who find themselves in these circumstances are civilians, are women and children who live in very poor areas,” Freeman says. “I find that very unjust that people don’t have access to health care as a result or have very poor health care. There’s a lot of suffering that goes along with that.”

She says working to help alleviate suffering is very rewarding and that she’s fascinated experiencing new things in places that, when you first arrive, you might not know what awaits you.

Freeman may be heading to Africa in the next few weeks to help in the fight against Ebola. This is the largest outbreak of the disease on record. As of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control reported the suspected and confirmed case count was nearing 1,900; the suspected number of deaths had just surpassed 1,000.

WCHL spoke with UNC physician William Fischer upon his return to the states from Africa where he treated people who had contracted Ebola. He said he left feeling like there was more he could do, and that he would certainly be willing to return.

Freeman’s comments were made on a recent edition of Who’s Talking with D.G. Martin, heard weekends on WCHL. Click here to listen (August 2, 2014 edition).

Orange County Animal Services Advise Coyote Safety

Orange County Animal Services has released a media advisory about what citizens can do to stay safe and stay smart when it comes to coexisting with wild coyotes in the county and throughout North Carolina.

The Director of Orange County Animal Services, Bob Marotto, says that while advisories about coexisting with coyotes have been issued for several years now, what prompted the latest alert was the recent surge in reports from the Hillsborough area involving missing outside cats and other small pets that are kept outdoors, which Animal Services has connected to the presence of coyotes preying on these pets.

“They are virtually everywhere,” says Marotto, “not only in all 100 counties in North Carolina, but in all of the different areas of Orange County as well.”

He says there has been a rise in coyote presence in more urban areas as well, such as one case earlier this summer in which Animal Services impounded a coyote that was found in an alley on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill.

Marotto says that the three greatest “attractants” for coyotes to invade areas in which they normally are not found are food, water, and shelter, which he says can come from a number of different sources.

Food sources can come from spills when feeding dogs or wild birds.

Marotto suggests that in order to prevent coyotes from becoming too habituated, or generally comfortable around human populated areas, people need to give the coyotes reasons to stay far away.

“People should haze coyotes if and when there is contact,” says Marotto. “People should make loud noises and do things that make the coyote turn around and go away from us. If we don’t do that, what happens is that coyotes become more and more comfortable or tolerant and habituated, and eventually then we do have some incidents that we really don’t want to have.”

In addition to likely food sources for coyotes coming from loose pet food, Marotto says that local wildlife biologists are certain that some cats and even small dogs have become part of the food chain for coyotes. In order to prevent outdoor pets from being taken by coyotes, Marotto offers a few recommendations as to what pet owners can do when it comes to allowing their beloved pets outdoors.

“One of them is not just leaving your cat or your dog outside, and leaving it outside, because in those circumstances there is not a person present to fend off or haze and deflect any approaches by a coyote,” says Marotto. “In addition to being present with our dogs or cats when they are outside, if there is some consideration of leaving them outside unattended, they must really be in a secure enclosure.”

Citizens are encouraged to contact Orange County Animal Services if they encounter coyotes engaging in threatening behavior or becoming habituated in residential areas, they can access the Coyote Incident Reporting Form here, or call Animal Services at (919) 942-7387.

CHPD Chief: ‘Robbery/Murder A Random Act’

Chapel Hill citizens are expressing through social media their concern for safety after a random act of attempted robbery led to the death of a UNC professor Wednesday afternoon.

Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue says he wants to assure all citizens that the police officers are constantly monitoring the community for suspicious activity to help keep the town as safe as possible.

“We’re proud of the nature of our community’s safety,” Chief Blue says. “It’s something that we all work very hard on as community members. In fact, we all have a responsibility for it, and I’m proud of the way our community rises to that challenge. I will say that this one is particularly troubling because it’s so random—in the middle of the day. All of our sense of safety as community members takes a hit when something so random and unexplained happens, as was the case here. Immediately our reaction as a police department is to increase presence in the neighborhoods and knock on doors and reassure folks. But, we also recognize that grieving and dealing with this kind of shocking circumstance takes some time. We’re scratching our heads a little bit just like everyone else in the community is about just why and how this could happen.”

WCHL’s Ran Northam spoke with Chief Blue

The incident took place just a couple blocks west of the UNC School of Public Health and split of Pittsboro and South Columbia streets. Fifty-nine-year-old Feng Liu, of Greyfield Boulevard in Durham and a professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy was known to take a walk through the community during his lunch break, according to multiple media outlets. Colleagues said it was a way he reenergized himself daily.

Chief Blue says he can’t release any additional information because the investigation is ongoing, however, he says it was a town employee that first arrived to find Liu in need of medical attention. According to the News and Observer, prosecutors said Liu was hit in the head with a rock. He died at UNC Hospitals.

Public Information Lieutenant Josh Mecimore says the list of items stolen from Liu has not yet been released.

UNC Police Chief Jeff McCracken was out of town Friday and unable to be reached.

In a statement released through Alert Carolina, Chief McCracken emphasized how important it is to always be prepared.

“People should have a plan in mind about how to respond in an emergency because it’s very difficult to plan for an emergency when you’re in the middle of one,” he said. “It’s important for people to know beforehand where the exits are, where the fire escapes are, the safest place in the building to be if a tornado is spotted, that kind of thing. Planning decreases panic and increases the chance for a better outcome in an emergency situation.”

How to Be Safe with Fireworks

This July 4th, Chapel Hill is offering a variety of ways to celebrate, notably the fireworks display at Kenan Stadium. The Chapel Hill Fire Department is reminding citizens that the best way to practice good firework safety this summer is leave it to the professionals.

Fire Marshall for the Chapel Hill Fire Department, Todd Iaeger, says that the best way to be safe with fireworks this Independence Day is simply not to use them.

“The obvious answer is not to use them at all,” says Iaeger. “If you are going to use consumer fireworks, people have to be cognizant of the fact that these things emit significant temperatures, and anything around those things can easily ignite. People have to remember too that the statute of North Carolina states that if it leaves the ground, if it moves, if it makes a big bang, it’s illegal.”

Iaeger also says that the use of sparklers is something that might be safest to avoid altogether, especially for child safety.

“To me, it’s a bit counterintuitive,” says Iaeger. “We give small children sparklers and tell them to wave them around. What people don’t understand is that patterned material on those sparklers has the ability to reach to 1,200 plus degrees. So, we’re putting 1,200 plus degrees of a little wire in the hand of a child. If you are going to use those, you’ve got to make sure there is an extreme amount of adult supervision. I believe, and I think statistics prove, that sparklers alone are very dangerous, particularly for smaller children.”

With the celebration events that Chapel Hill has to offer this July 4th, Iaeger says that there is essentially no reason to risk your own fireworks show, when you have one of the best in the country right at your backdoor.

“I want to stress significantly, please, forgo the consumer fireworks, forgo the homemade fireworks. Go to the professional display at Kenan Stadium. It’s ranked as one of the top ten best displays in the country. Take advantage of that. Please leave it in the hands of the professionals.”

For more tips on fire safety, click here.

Black Bear Safety in Hillsborough

With the recent number of black bear sightings throughout Hillsborough, it is important to understand what is causing these bears to behave this way, and what you can do in response.

Head of the Camouflage Coalition Program of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, Richard Hamilton, has experience in black bear management from his 37 years working with the Wildlife Resource Commission. He says that while these black bears popping up in these areas are strange, it is a normal part of black bear biology.

“What you are seeing here in Orange County is a fairly normal occurrence, although it is an unusual place,” says Hamilton. “About the middle of July, the females run off the two-year-old cubs that they have, they finish nursing them. They run them off in preparation to start another family. It is not unusual for these young bears to move long distances in search of a new home range where they can set up a territory.”

Hamilton also cautions that while these bears are not generally dangerous, they need to be left alone, and they will not become permanent residents of the Hillsborough area.

Bears are not inherently dangerous, especially these young bears,” says Hamilton. “The best advice is not to bother these bears, but to be aware of them. Don’t go up to them, try to pet them, take a picture with them, or anything like that. They are not going to attack you or your pets, and they will move on. They are not going to take up residence in Orange County.”

Hillsborough Police has informed WCHL that there have not yet been any further black bear sightings since the last report.

Anyone who sees a bear should still call 911 immediately.

This Month, Make Homes Safe For Seniors

In honor of National Safety Month, senior home care experts at Chapel Hill’s Home Instead Senior Care are offering free home safety checks throughout the month of June.

Stephen Lair of Home Instead Senior Care says it’s extremely important to make sure the home is safe, especially if you or your family member is a senior citizen: 33 percent of seniors’ hospital visits are caused by falls and other accidents in the home, he says, and nearly half of those could have been prevented with some basic safety precautions – precautions as simple as removing loose rugs or making sure railings are secure.

Lair joined Aaron Keck on the WCHL Afternoon News to discuss the issue.

For more information on in-home safety, visit – and for more information on Home Instead Senior Care or to schedule a safety check, visit

Carrboro Police Request Body Cameras, and Car Cams

During the Carrboro Board of Aldermen meeting this past Tuesday, Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton and Captain Chris Atack proposed the idea of both body-worn cameras as well as in-car cameras for Carrboro police.

Chief Horton discussed the benefits that would come from the ability to review the footage collected and provide more reliable information about various criminal situations where eyewitness testimonies can be unreliable.

“These cameras would allow us, when we do receive complaints, to go back and answer that; review what happened, whether good or bad,” informs Chief Horton.

The Policy Director from the ACLU of North Carolina, Sarah Preston, also spoke in support of the police cameras. She reassured the Board on the efforts Carrboro police would make in order to provide accurate information about what they encounter while on patrol, while also encouraging a strong policy to keep it in check.

“The ACLU believes that the police use of body-mounted cameras has the potential to be a win/win,” says Preston, “but really only if you have a solid policy in place.”

The Board will review the proposal made by the Carrboro police and will make a decision about the cameras in the upcoming weeks.

Knife Wielder Committed To UNC Hospitals

Authorities say the man who was arrested for pulling a knife on a UNC student Sunday afternoon has been involuntarily committed to UNC hospitals.

According to the Daily Tar Heel, Chapel Hill resident and 31-year-old UNC graduate, Jesse Alan Kister was committed in UNC Department of Public Safety’s custody on Sunday. When he’s released, he will be charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

Chapel Hill Police and DPS coordinated the search for Kister. CHPD found him in The Chapel of the Cross on East Franklin Street. He was taken to the Chapel Hill Police Station and quickly turned over to DPS since the crime took place on campus.

Kister was found in possession of four knives valued at $100, according to the incident report.

Alert Carolina issued an emergency warning shortly after 4:00 p.m., when the incident first took place. Buildings on campus were locked down—including Carmichael Arena, where the UNC women’s basketball team was playing its first-round NCAA tournament game.

Alert Carolina issued the all-clear at 5:18 p.m. Sunday afternoon. There were no injuries.

The DTH interviewed one of Kister’s former professors who said he only knew Kister in the classroom and didn’t know him on a personal level.

Kister received his bachelor’s degree in information science from UNC in 2005. He also earned a master’s in health care administration in 2008 and information science in 2011.

DTH Article

Four New Flu Deaths In NC Last Week, Three Additional Found

Four people died from the flu last week and three additional flu deaths from previous weeks have been discovered, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

At the last report, 74 people had been killed by the flu in North Carolina this flu season. The total is now up to 81, which is 22 more than last season’s total of 59.

Four deaths is the lowest reported total since the first full week in January showing a continued downward trend since the peak of 12 in late January. This time period also marked just the second week since January 12 that a pediatric death has not been reported.

To see more statistics of flu-reported deaths in North Carolina, click here.