Following the attack in Charlottesville, the Chapel Hill Police Department is using experience from other communities and past events to prepare for potential conflict.
Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue said public safety managers are monitoring activity in other communities and identifying potential conflict areas where people are expressing opposing opinions. He said they are working to formulate the best plans and responses for each event.
“I think every time there’s an event where you can learn from the experiences of that community and from the experiences of the decision makers, then you should do that,” Blue said. “And we are certainly monitoring what is happening in other communities and trying to evaluate tactics and strategies to keep everyone safe based on what we’re seeing happening elsewhere.”
Blue said the Chapel Hill Police Department works closely with UNC's campus and the extended community. He said they have a lot of experience working together to manage large scale events such as Halloween, street festivals and UNC basketball victories.
“You know the kinds of plans that support those kinds of events in our community are scalable to other kinds of events,” Blue said. “In that regard, we have built the kinds of plans and relationships with partner agencies to be well prepared.”
First-year Eli Zachary said he is concerned about his safety on campus and there has been too much focus on national impact. He said it took too long for authorities in Charlottesville to act.
“What I want to see from the governments of Carrboro, Chapel Hill and their police departments, and UNC’s police department is that they are prepared to prevent any kind of rally from escalating into violence,” Zachary said.
Randy Young, media relations manager for UNC Public Safety, could not be reached by telephone or email.
Joanne Peters Denny, director of media relations for UNC, provided a statement on Aug. 17 about campus safety following Charlottesville. She said the University cannot discuss specifics regarding safety operations, but the safety of campus members and property are taken seriously.
“We are constantly studying events on other campuses to ensure we are prepared for any incidents that may arise here,” Peters Denny said. “We are reviewing the events in Charlottesville to ensure that we are employing all best practices to keep our campus safe.”
First-year Thomas Poole is not taking individual precautions to maintain his safety on campus, but said he is concerned we could see similar reaction if Silent Sam was taken down.
“I think the events have inspired me to get more involved in campus politics and such because I think it is important that we do organize in case something like that happened,” Poole said.
Sophomore Tarik Woods said there are many similarities between Charlottesville and Chapel Hill, particularly the student presence that exists. Woods said he is not concerned for his safety, but is disappointed in the response from Chancellor Carol Folt.
“I was upset with the letter because I felt like Chancellor Folt understands that every student at Chapel Hill ... is passionate about some aspect of what happened in Charlottesville,” he said. “And we like to be vocal. We like to have our voices heard. We want to protest and have rallies and talk about what makes us Tar Heels and how that affects our community, and we should continue that and we should be supported in that.”
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