Lack of rape alerts draws complaints: Students say they should have been told about report sooner
The investigation into a rape reported near campus at roughly 2 a.m. Thursday morning has turned up few leads and has left some questioning whether the campus should have been alerted to a potential threat.
Sgt. Josh Mecimore, spokesman for Chapel Hill Police Department, said police are looking for two black men, one of whom has a scar on his face, in connection with the crime.
He said police do not know if the woman who reported the rape, a 27-year-old who is not a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, knew her attacker.
“I think it’s a very traumatic situation, and so we’re still waiting to get information,” he said.
Meanwhile, some students have criticized campus officials and media outlets for not informing the campus when the rape was reported.
“We realized that there was no Alert Carolina, and it didn’t show up in The Daily Tar Heel until almost a day later,” said Cassandra Etter-Wenzel, a UNC junior. “This is something that really should have been reported.”
Based on police reports, though the incident occurred in an on-campus alley near Franklin Street, the young woman reported it off campus in an area near Cosmic Cantina.
Jeff McCracken, chief of the Department of Public Safety, said because the incident originated off campus, Chapel Hill police are handling it — and based on the information available at the time, the department decided not to release an Alert Carolina warning in response to the attack.
He said the department didn’t believe the circumstances met the criteria for issuing a warning to the campus.
“There is always a delicate balance between making sure accurate information is available and the campus community’s need to know about a possible threat,” McCracken said in an email.
Mecimore said situations involving someone who has been traumatized are challenging.
“You try to determine whether it was an isolated incident or an acquaintance incident, and whether it could be an ongoing threat,” he said.
He said at this point, police have yet to determine whether the suspected men are still in Chapel Hill and whether any threat remains to campus or the community.
Members of Project Dinah, a UNC initiative aimed at ending sexual assault, said that they were distressed by the University’s response to the report.
The organization put out a press release Monday night in response to the incident.
“We rely upon DPS to alert us immediately in any emergency, and we are frustrated to have learned about this event from outside media sources and not from our campus community,” the release states.
Of incidents the campus police blotter lists specifically as rape for the past two years, five took place in residence halls or hotels, and one incident’s location was unclear. One report came from Manning Drive.
Students said the fact that this incident happened out in the open frightened them.
“For me personally, I walked down that alley two hours before it had happened,” said senior Bethany Hargis, a Project Dinah member.
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