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Duke Police Continue to Investigate Weekend Crimes
Duke police have interviewed more than 200 people and continue to seek additional information as they investigate three apparently unrelated crimes that were reported over the weekend.
"No lead is too small," Duke Police Chief Clarence Birkhead said. "If anyone has any information about these incidents, please give us a call." Duke Police can be reached at 684-4713.
The police also continue to patrol the campus at increased levels instituted in late November, following an armed robbery in the Bryan Center. Birkhead said the 21 or 22 officers that typically served on duty in the past are now supported by another eight to 15 security people who are patrolling near the entrances to campus, in the campus interior and in the Bryan Center, which is Duke's student center. Police also have added extra patrol vehicles, trimmed hedges, added lighting and emergency phones and gated some parking lots, and have taken part in safety walks with student leaders.
Two forums were held Wednesday evening for members of the Duke community to discuss this weekend's crimes, which include a reported rape.
Birkhead, Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta and other Duke officials spoke at the forums, which were organized by Edens Quadrangle Residence Coordinator David Montag.
On Wednesday afternoon, about 80 protesters and 20 bystanders gathered on the steps of Duke Chapel for a "Scream-In" to protest the recent sexual assaults of Duke students.
The weekend's first incident reportedly took place late Friday, March 19, in an outdoor wooded area near Edens Quad. A 21-year-old female student told police she was raped between 10:30 and 11 p.m. immediately after leaving a party at Edens. According to Duke Police Major Phyllis Cooper, the student was taken to the emergency room of Duke Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries, then released. The victim could not provide a description of her assailant.
Birkhead said Duke Police have interviewed all 25 people who were at the party, as well as about 70 residents of Eden Quad, looking for clues.
Birkhead said police plan to re-interview some people, and he asks anyone with information about the case to call Det. Sgt. Chad Copley at 684-4026.
A second incident, which took place early Sunday in an apartment on Central Campus, involved an unknown male who entered an unlocked apartment and fondled one of the female occupants. The incident, first reported Sunday night, occurred around 6 a.m. The victim reported that a digital camera was missing from her apartment, but police say the camera may have disappeared during a party that occurred earlier in the evening at the apartment.
Duke police have visited 121 Central Campus apartments and interviewed 137 residents about the incident.
They also are investigating a burglary that occurred in the Town House Apartments near Swift Avenue sometime between Saturday evening and Sunday morning. The residents were not at home at the time. The burglary of the unsecured apartment was reported at 7 p.m. Sunday. The residents said a laptop computer and web camera were missing. People with information about those two crimes should contact Det. Sgt. John Sheley at 684-5263.
Duke police are reminding students to take appropriate safety precautions and to report any suspicious activity. They are also urging students to take advantage of such security services as SafeRides and emergency phones.
A summary of these services is available online at
Duke President Nannerl O. Keohane also urged people to take precautions.
"Like many members of the university community, I am troubled by these reported incidents," Keohane said. "We have significantly increased patrols and police presence at the campus in recent weeks, and I know that the Duke Police are working very hard on their current investigations. I hope everyone will take reasonable and appropriate precautions to ensure their own safety as our police investigations continue."
Members of the Duke community say they are upset because they were not notified of the reported rape at Edens until Tuesday. The Office of Information Technology said delivery of an email message from Moneta to students was delayed by a day because of unexpected technical problems, and it has revised its procedures to provide faster electronic delivery in similar situations in the future.
At a news conference on Monday, Moneta said he did not want to send a message to the Duke community until he was sure the information was accurate. "In some ways, rushed information that is inaccurate is worse," he said, adding that Duke Police are "conducting an exhaustive investigation of these incidents."
At Wednesday's "Scream-In," protestors carried brightly colored, hand-lettered signs. Some were general -- "It could be your girlfriend" -- while others were more pointed -- "I heard it from my mom before I heard it from Duke."
"It's important for us to say it wasn't right that it happened," said Elisha Nunez, a first-year student who helped organize the protest. "We should have more police officers to protect us so this doesn't happen on campus."
"I think that sexual assault on campus is a very, very serious issue," said Rann Bar-on, a first-year graduate student and one of a number of men who joined the protest.
Alessa Colaianni, a freshman and organizer of the rally, addressed the crowd before leading them in a 5-minute-long scream.
"This is our community! This is our home!" she said. "We need immediate action and notification!"
News cameras zoomed in as the crowd screamed and Colaianni counted down five minutes.
After the screaming ended, four students read poems and Colaianni urged the crowd to attend the seminars, lectures and other events planned next week by the Women's Center. Sexual Assault Prevention Week already was scheduled for March 29-April 2 before the assaults occurred.
The volume was lower but the participants still very engaged Wednesday evening at the two forums held in McLendon Tower. More than 40 people attended the first session, and about 30 attended the second. At both meetings, Birkhead and Cooper described how the police have responded to the weekend incidents, and students and administrators traded ideas about how to enhance campus safety and communications.
The discussions highlighted several tradeoffs Duke faces. When one male student said, "I want to know ten minutes after it happens that there's a violent person walking around," others wondered whether increasing the number of alerts might cause students to tune out. A suggestion for more lighting led Moneta to note recent improvements but also to say "it's a perpetual struggle to figure out the right balance" in lighting Duke's large campus. "Obviously, charm doesn't trump safety," he said, "but what's the point at which the lighting begins to feel like the parking lot at Target?"
Similarly, Jean Leonard, coordinator of sexual assault support services at Duke's Women's Center, and others urged that concern about campus intruders not distract attention from sexual assault within the Duke community. Noting that "most assaults are not stranger assaults," Leonard said "it's really harmful" to treat acquaintance rape as being less serious or traumatic to victims than attacks from outsiders.
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