Is It Time that We Got Serious About This Problem?

The news regarding the two armed robberies yesterday, one in the alley between the Rosemary & Columbia Street lot and Franklin Street, and the other at the ATM at the Wachovia at University Mall, got me to asking myself: Am I comfortable when my wife goes out to run errands on her own? And, for the first time that I can remember, the answer is a solid no.

I don't blame the police; they are doing a good job with the resources they have been given. I guess that I might blame the socio-economic problems that have fallen upon this area as they have in most of the country. But what I really blame is the violence and crime that has been occurring in our neighboring communities in Durham and Raleigh and that is now being forced out of those communities by much more extensive policing efforts. I don't think it a coincidence that Durham and Raleigh are splitting a $2.5 million federal grant to deal with gang issues.

The question I think we are now faced with is what are we going to do about the increasing crime and the seemingly more violent crime that seems to be coming our way. Are we going to wait until it gets worse and we are forced to take action or are we going to get ahead of this problem before it escalates to the point that we simply react? I know that one answer might be to cure the socio-economic issues that foster crime but I don't see how we can readily address those of our more populous neighbors.

What does everyone else think? Is this becoming an issue of greater concern? If so, do you have any suggestions on the path we should take?



George, I found the daytime robberies to be a big shock. The locations are common sites I frequent: taking my grandchildren thru that alley to Franklin Street for ice cream and depositing checks at the Umall Wachovia branch.

The Town must first increase police foot patrols downtown or all else to revive the town center is doomed. Get officers out of the cars and on to bikes and foot to blanket the downtown for the next six months, or until our and Durham's hoodlums get the message.

In the long run we must grasp the growth in crime and violence that we are experiencing and arrive at something other than more gated communities and warehouse prisons. I have laughed at that stupid looking fortress development on the east side of Chapel Hill in Durham County off Ephesus Church Road but maybe it will be the future. 

How long can we just keep building prisons? In a stressed and dysfunctional society  that will be our main recourse. Can't afford more officers on our streets? Start building the walls....start stopping and searching young men...start increasing punishment and sentences. We know where this is all going.

While some of us can choose to boycott downtown if we are so inclined, students really can't. In fact, they may be completely unaware that downtown needs reviving. They are significant part of the population most the year. And more importantly, they are entrusted to this town by families throughout our state, so safety downtown has to be a priority whether I (or you) go there or not.

Foot patrols on Franklin  and Rosemary would be great. Surely Chapel Hill could spare some officers from pulling people for traffic offenses. 

But just to keep things in perspective. When I worked on Weaver Street in the late 90s, there was an armed robbery at our bank in broad daylight, across the street, where I went twice a week. The use of guns (or violence) did not come out of nowhere this year.

I wonder if what ways could Chapel Hill (and Carrboro) Police partner with Durham. Or what they could learn from Durham? I'm not really convinced that every robbery in town is a commuter robbery. 



Do we know that all these attacks come from Durham residents (hoodlums)?  Could some of the attackers be home grown?

When we feel that we or our families are no longer safe, the short term personal safety issues takes priority over any long term solutions or theories.  Increasing police presence can be extremely helpful in tamping down criminal activity and providing citizens with a better sense of security.  I agree with Roscoe that both Chapel Hill and Carrboro would be wise to take that action asap.


I think everyone is a little edge walking around at 2 o'clock in the morning no matter where you live, certainly I did a lot of walking in downtown Durham at that time when I lived there and was always "aware" of what was happening.

But, as Roscoe says, these things that have been happening lately are a whole different ballgame. Home invasion, daylight robbery at a very, very public ATM, that alley so many of us use as the connection between parking and Franklin Street. This is scary stuff and it is happening frequently enough now that I too am warning family to be wary - everywhere in Chapel Hill. For instance, Meadowmont is much closer to Durham, only a matter of time before they figure that out.


One man with courage makes a majority.

- Andrew Jackson

I remember that bank robbery on Weaver Street.  I had an office there too, and often walked home alone after dark.  I no longer walk alone after dark, but I don't know that walking in pairs or being a man is much safer in Chapel Hill or Carrboro.  Certainly not if a gun comes out.  I seem to have adopted safer practices unconsciously over the years.  I don't walk alone at night and I never use ATMs because I don't have eyes in the back of my head.  I also feel much more confident walking with nothing in my hands.   Everything I really need (except for a good book) fits in the back pocket of my jeans. 

Citizens who walk out of necessity or strong preference, male or female, simply must become hypervigilant.  There probably won't be a cop on foot in the immediate vicinity of a crime.  We have to look out for ourselves!  

I have to confess that I walked at night by myself twice last Fall. Once quite late, but there was at art walk and I felt pretty safe. The other fairly early, but still after dark. 

I did feel guilty later, because it would be really awful for family if anything happened to me. But then my husband sometimes bikes up to Franklin (from Carrboro) to see shows and he's not less of a target for a mugging.

I grew up in a dirty northern town with approximately 3 times the violent crime rate than Chapel Hill, and thought I was OK with the concept that stuff does happen.  

The difference is there I could avoid crime by staying out of the bad neighborhoods, especially at night. The downtown of this northern town is safe because it's blanketed by cops. Public parking lot?  A cop there.  Entertainment district?  Cops and security guards up and down the strip all hours of the day and night.

I think Chapel Hill must have the reputation of being a easy mark: plenty of rich people and a light police presence.   We've got a situation where a small area is being targeted, and Roscoe is right, it needs a blanket protection with increased visible police presence until everyone knows Franklin St. is not an easy destination to rob people.

As well don't forget that students/renters are historically targeted. There are neighborhoods that are perfectly safe for walking most the year, but break-ins occur over breaks. I guarantee more computers and stereos disappear from rental homes over the holidays then ever disappear from our wealthier neighborhoods.


Yes, it seems that violent crime is rising in the area. But let's not have the attitude that got us into the Iraq War. 

I would say less protectionism (fear) and more generosity (love) is in order. Even though these are straining economic times for all of us, very few are having a really hard time. But even in these moderately difficult economic times we can tend to lock down, and in doing so we create more animosity and need. And as a result, there is more crime.

Crime will rise, and then it will fall. Be patient, be giving. Equanimity will follow.


i have a concealed carry permit and find that it is a wonderful thing to be able to protect yourself if necessary.

trust me - i used to be horrified of guns and thought that gun toters were monsters, and many of you probably share these feelings.

once i became educated on how to properly carry, use and maintain a firearm i learned that many of the ideas i held were predudicial and totally incorrect. not only do i love to shoot handguns now, i feel that it is my duty to protect myself and those i love from people who have no regard for others.

 do it the right way, of course. go to the police department, get a gun permit. practice on a range. take a concealed carry class and obey all of the laws and be mature about your right to possess a weapon. you will have one more "weapon" in your box of tools to prevent yourself from being a victim...

i understand this does not solve the long term problem (which is very complex) but it may get you home safely to your family to live another day...



"But let's not have the attitude that got us into the Iraq War."

Personally, I don't think there's enough similarity between violent crime and global politics to be helpful, but that's just me.

"I would say less protectionism (fear) and more generosity (love) is in order. [...]"

Dealing with crime and the economy/poverty is not an either/or situation.  There's no reason why local governments can't both implement measurements to help the poor, AND deter violent crime at the same time.  

The Iraq War was a response to the threat of violent crimes. Many would say we had to go there to protect ourselves against a threat. Fear is fear. 

"Dealing with crime and the economy/poverty is not an either/or situation.  There's no reason why local governments can't both implement measurements to help the poor, AND deter violent crime at the same time."

Helping the poor is a deterrent to property crimes. It is interesting that you separate them. Does deterrence automatically imply physical force? If we have a strong police force here will that not just push the crime somewhere else? That is where we need compassion.

I do not advocate getting rid of the police, just a shuffling of our priorities.

Sorry Dave, I don't like knowing you have a gun any more than I like knowing the kids up the street have guns.  Even cops get in trouble for shooting the wrong people!  Rats, now I'm sputtering and can't think of anything else to say. 

well, my point wasn't to make you feel more secure that i have a weapon, Catherine, although I would do what it took to prevent any innocent bystanders from being attacked. 

my point is that YOU should think about getting one to protect yourself! i would applaud you for making that decision because i would know one more rational person would be able to stand up against criminals.

i would hope you differeniate me, a law abiding, well trained citizen that is legally able to protect myself, and a criminal that probably has an illegal weapon and would use such weapon in the comission of a crime.

if any of you here would like to know how to procure a legal weapon, just call your local law enforcement. the ones i have spoken with are in favor of stable citizens having firearms legally.

once you don't have to rely on any one else to protect you and your family, it is a wonderful empowering feeling.

But until you have ever used a personal firearm to defend yourself and actually fired at another human, you may not realize how hard it is to do what you "course" taught you to do.  Then, the perp takes over and "packing good citizen" become another statistic.  Also, in NC, you cannot legally shoot someone who is robbing you unless they are using a dangerous weapon to do so. This assessment requires a snap judgment and then action.

Please don't discount the power of personal fear and its ability to cause you to freeze up at the critical moment.  Only a lot of training helps to overcome this, and the typical "packing good citizen" just doesn't receive it.

Wise words, Fred, I have no doubt.

fred - you are partially correct. you can shoot someone who is breaking in to your home with the intent to commit a felony. you don't have to know if he is armed or not. as far as a robbery out in the open, there is no reason to kill someone who is robbing you unless they have a deadly weapon. however, once you show you have a weapon, they will more than likely go away. if they have a deadly weapon, then its on.

also, by your logic, police who have never shot anyone would also be apt to "freeze", right? i have spent MANY hours firing handguns. I assure you if necessary, i am as ready as a police officer who has never fired at another human to do so if necessary... 


trust me. i was in Durham and was approached by a less than savory character. i grabbed my weapon and was ready to kill if necessary. i wouldn't have much of a problem blowing away someone that is trying to kill me or someone i love. i consider it my duty...

as a lawyer once told me - better to be judged by 12 than carried out by 6...



This is exactly why police departments provide recurring training using various techniques.  Most civilians do not receive similar training. But the stats do show that more police than we would like get shot with their own weapon, just as civilians do.

Do as you are going to do, but the fact remains, hours of firing a weapon is not the same as shooting a human.

I also have a CCW.  I can be seen pretty regularly at most of the various local ranges, and I was in Grenada, Panama, and Desert Storm.  I'll disagree with you on the usefulness of concealed carry in North Carolina.  There are numerous laws and ordinances governing where you can carry, and my experience has been that if you're going somewhere with a firearm, in order to remain in compliance with all the laws, you're going to have to leave it in the trunk of your car as soon as you need to get out of the vehicle.  


The other issue I have with carrying a concealed firearm, is that a confrontation with an armed person is apt to turn into a quickdraw contest, with the other person having a head start on you.  I don't like the odds in that scenario.  I'd suggest a healthy dose of situational awareness, a charged cell phone, and a friend walking with you instead. 

I'm not convinced there is more crime. Looking at the SBI's annual stats, crime is down (slightly) across the state and is quite a bit less in Orange County since 2003. The 2007 Index Rate for Chapel Hill was down by ~35% from 1998 and by 21% in Carrboro.

I wonder if the solution to crime in certain areas of town, including downtown, might be a more engaged community policing model rather than simply an increased number of foot patrols. Chapel Hill currently has substations located in areas of high activity, but from what I have heard and observed, the officers who staff those stations serve in the traditional police role vs true community policing.

Based on my experience in downtown Norfolk VA and Atlanta GA, my perception is that police who engage with the community serve as a very strong deterrent to crime as well as giving citizens a greater sense of safety.

Thanks for posting this information -- very interesting. Unfortunately, a few brazen acts of crime like we've seen over the past few days are going to overshadow statistics like these.

I think your recommendations are spot-on as well. I'm certainly hoping to see our police departments react in a reasoned and deliberate manner by shifting their priorities and methods.

Thanks Terri! It sort of plays back to my post of comparing our reactions that got us into the Iraq war. We went into that conflict with very little facts as well.

Thanks for posting the stats, always like to read 'em.  The problem with this particular situation is:

1. They don't break out stats for the shopping areas.

2. They don't indicate time of day.

If Franklin St. is going to have any customers at all it can't have a reputation for people getting guns pointed at them in broad daylight.   If someone gets robbed in an alley at 3AM then we can rationalize that the person put themselves in a dangerous situation, but there's no way to avoid harm if armed robberies occur in broad daylight right in the common places everyone goes.

So, yes, crime overall is down, but the appearance is that crime in the heart of CH is up.


This is fine, but crime is crime. If I'm robbed outside Weaver St and the sun just happens to be down, I'm not going to be any happier about it than if the sun happens to be up. And 4 day time robberies likely committed by one person do not qualify as a larger crime crisis, particularly when similar events have happened in the past. Furthermore, to get too granular with crime cartography is to invite missing the forest for the trees.

What we need is a bit more awareness and vigilance in the citizenry as well as a rational as opposed to simply reactionary response from the police department. Throwing up our arms and lamenting the fact that we'll never leave the house again seems a bit silly and disingenuous. Furthermore, reacting simply out of fear seems a bit short-sighted and potentially disastrous.

These events certainly are both frightening and telling about some of the key problems Chapel Hill and Carrboro are facing. But we really don't have much hope of solving them until we understand fully why they're happening and what the appropriate responses are. Looking at hard facts as opposed to "appearances" will be much more helpful in achieving our shared goals.

"If I'm robbed outside Weaver St and the sun just happens to be down, I'm not going to be any happier about it than if the sun happens to be up."

Its all about expectations. When people live in a high crime area an armed robbery isn't news, but when you live in a low crime area it is news, because people expect to be safe in a low crime area. Time of day does matter because some areas are perfectly safe during the day, but are known to be unsafe at night. I'm talking about the behavior patterns of large numbers of citizens.

 "Furthermore, to get too granular with crime cartography is to invite missing the forest for the trees." 

If a city has limited resources doesn't it make sense to have more of a police presence in the high crime areas, and fewer police where there's less crime? 

Yes, at this point we don't know what's behind this particular crime spree.  Worrying about appearances won't bring down the overall crime rate, but it is sometime to worry about if you ever expect anyone to shop on Franklin St. 

"my perception is that police who engage with the community serve as a very strong deterrent to crime as well as giving citizens a greater sense of safety."

I really noticed this when I was in Tucson, a city about which I knew nothing - so unlike here I couldn't gage what I should or shouldn't be doing. And I had a small child with me - was it okay to walk to a restaurant (there certainly wasn't parking) knowing I would be walking back after dark. I felt very safe even though I was in a district teeming with people - some in tuxes, some with shopping carts - because the police were walking through saying hello, good evening (i kid you not) to people of all sorts.

Now there has been a third.

Last weekend in Carrboro, two friends of mine watched a pair of young men sitting with a very drunk or drugged young woman in Armadillo Grill.  She was carrying a large purse/bag and fell down when she stood up.  My friends helped her to her feet and told her companions they needed to put her in a cab.  They said they didn't know her, but half-carried her out to the street.  Watching from the window, my friends saw these guys deposit this girl at the bar across the street and run away with her bag.  One of my friends (female) chased them down and grabbed the bag.  Somebody called 911.  The cops came and arrested the thieves.  No guns were involved, just an opportunistic heist.  I wonder how often this sort of thing happens in the course of Saturday night bar-hopping. 

This N&O story makes it sound like the just caught the guy:

Three shotgun-using robberies at Raleigh-area ATMs on Tuesday. Sounds quite likely that he's also the perp from Chapel Hill.

The Herald-Sun is reporting that the Chapel Hill Police Department has identified a man who was arrested in Raleigh as a suspect in the armed robbery of a 17-year-old teenager who was using an ATM near University Mall Tuesday afternoon.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Public Safety is warning the campus community to stay alert and take extra safety precautions in the wake of a reported strong-arm robbery on north campus just after midnight today (July 26).
The suspect was described as a black male, in his early-to-mid-20s, 5 feet 8 inches tall, with a medium build, wearing dark jeans and a dark
T-shirt - possibly navy blue in color. No weapons were used in the robbery.
A 24-year-old male and his sister were walking west on the sidewalk between Hill Hall and the Smith Building when he was grabbed from behind and pushed to the ground. The suspect fled the scene after being confronted by a UNC Public Safety Officer who was on foot patrol in the immediate area.
The Department of Public Safety offers the following safety tips:
  • Don't walk alone at night
  • Use the buddy system.
  • Walk in well-lit areas of campus.
  • Immediately report any and all suspicious activity to law enforcement by calling 911. Remember that 911 is not only for emergencies.
  • If you do not have a cell phone, use the call boxes located across campus.
  • Use UNC's free Point-to-Point demand service by calling 962-7867 (962-P-TO-P) and providing your UNC personal identification number. The service is available at night to UNC students, faculty and staff at various locations during summer months.
  • Use Chapel Hill Transit, free to all passengers during operational hours. For information about routes and services, visit their Web site at:
For more information, visit the "Breaking News" link from the Department of Public Safety Web site at: University police ask anyone with information in connection with the case to call the department at 962-8100 or Chapel Hill-Carrboro-UNC Crime Stoppers at 942-7515. All conversations are confidential; no one must identify themselves or appear in court.

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