Durham police to increase patrols following off campus robberies

October 15, 2010

By Leanora Minai

The Durham Police Department will increase its patrols of LaSalle Street following two robberies this week of Duke graduate students in that area.

To enhance safety off campus near LaSalle Street, Duke and Durham officials met Friday afternoon and developed a plan that also includes immediately extending by two hours the evening operating hours of the LaSalle Loop, the off-campus transit route serving the LaSalle Street area. The city and Durham police will also assess lighting in the area.

“I like to look at the Durham Police Department and the Duke University Police Department as two seamless parts that work together,” Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said. “It’s not just these two individuals who were robbed. It’s a community that’s been impacted.”

Among the university officials at Friday’s meeting with Durham police were Duke Police Chief John Dailey, Student Affairs Assistant Vice President Sue Wasiolek, Senior Associate Dean of Graduate Programs Jacqueline Looney and Vice President of Human Resources Kyle Cavanaugh, who is responsible for Emergency Management and oversees the Duke police department.

“There is no higher priority to us than your well-being,” Dailey said in an e-mail message to all students Friday.

The meeting with Duke and Durham officials followed two separate robberies along LaSalle Street, a pedestrian route dotted by apartment complexes. On Wednesday morning, a graduate student walking along LaSalle had her backpack taken by force. On Thursday night, another graduate student was punched and robbed of his cell phone.

Police officials said the incidents are crimes of opportunity perpetrated by different suspects who do not appear to be targeting any specific group of people.

“Our primary concern is the well being of our students, and we take these incidents very seriously,” Looney said. “We’re working directly with the students and their departments to ensure they receive whatever help they need, and we’re stepping up our efforts to make sure they are aware of Duke’s services and resources.”

In addition to Durham increasing its police patrols, the following measures will take place:

  • Effective immediately, Duke transit officials will temporarily extend the hours of operation of the LaSalle Loop, which runs along LaSalle Street, Campus Walk Avenue and Morreene Road. The LaSalle service will end at 11 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. Duke transit also will temporarily add an extra van to its Duke Van Services operation to serve the LaSalle Street area.
  • The city and Durham police department will partner to conduct a crime-prevention lighting assessment of LaSalle Street to determine whether more lights are needed.

Police encouraged students who cross Erwin Road to areas around LaSalle Street to consider these safety precautions:

  • Reconsider walking and get a ride. Take the LaSalle Loop or use Duke Van Services (919-684-2020), which provides on-demand transportation from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. within a defined boundary area.
  • Do not carry valuable property.
  • Be alert and aware of your surroundings at all times, walk in groups at night and avoid unfamiliar, dimly lit areas. Report concerning behavior or suspicious activity immediately by calling 9-1-1.

Anyone with information about the recent incidents is asked to contact the Durham Police at (919) 560-4427; Duke Police at (919) 684-2444, or Durham CrimeStoppers at (919) 683-1200. Crimestoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests in felony cases. Callers may remain anonymous.