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How UNC Police and CHPD function in independent jurisdictions


A police car is pictured on Wednesday, October 26th, 2022, in front of UNC's Public Safety Building.

Crimes that occur on UNC's campus and in the rest of Chapel Hill fall under different policing jurisdictions. But, the lines between UNC Police and the Chapel Hill Police Department can be blurred, potentially confusing both students are residents.

Here's what you need to know about the difference between the two:

In cases of serious crimes on campus, UNC Police delivers information to students using text alerts, the Alert Carolina website and Twitter page, campus-wide email notifications and mobile safety app push notifications through the Carolina Ready App. UNC faculty, staff, visitors, local residents, parents and the news media can also access the alerts. 

However, UNC Police policy states that such information will only be shared if, “there is a continuing danger to the campus community, and issuing the crime alert will not compromise law enforcement efforts to address the crime.”

The Clery Act explains the instances in which UNC Police must share information on the crime once available, barring instances in which police believe such information would compromise investigative efforts.

Brian James, the chief of police for UNC, said sometimes the process of alerting students can appear to be delayed when a victim does not report an incident to the police right away.

“Sometimes it will make it look like we delayed doing the alert when, in fact, we got the information two weeks after the incident occurred, and, if we’re required to report it, we’re certainly going to put out an alert,” he said.

James said the jurisdiction of the UNC Police includes campus and surrounding University-owned properties, which include areas such as the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education that are off of the main campus but remain within the University’s ownership.

He also said that, if UNC students are involved with CHPD in off-campus incidents, UNC Police is notified. At that time, the event, if it qualifies as a Clery incident, must be vetted by UNC Police before alerts can go out.

UNC Police usually does not take communications further than notifying the Dean of Students in cases such as assault when further disciplinary action is required.

On Jan. 12, an Alert Carolina message was sent to students about unwanted sexual touching on Chapel Hill Transit that had occurred two days prior on Jan. 10.

Adolfo Alvarez, a first-year student at UNC, said he feels it takes a long time for students to be notified about such incidents.

“The system has taken us to the point where it’s like, 'are we safe?'” he said.

CHPD’s jurisdiction covers anything in the town of Chapel Hill that does not include the University’s domain. 

The department will make a report of each incident that occurs in Chapel Hill and put those reports into a database. The information remains on file and can be accessed by request from both the University and the public.

In instances where criminal activity occurs outside of UNC Police's jurisdiction, Alex Carrasquillo, the community safety public information officer for the Town of Chapel Hill, said that UNC must internally determine if the incident meets its criteria for the release of information under Clery Act regulations.

“If they reach out to us and ask for relevant information, we give that to them," he said.

Carrasquillo emphasized that CHPD and UNC Police remain separate but often serve the same community.

James said that, in cases of alcohol violations, the University along with CHPD and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, has an alcohol diversion program called OC-PAD.

“We certainly understand that sometimes people make mistakes, and we certainly want to give, especially our students, a chance to redeem themselves,” he said.

Overall, James said the measure of police success is the safety of the campus through enhancing relationships with students to create comfortable communication.

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“When there’s no communication, we’re a less safe community,” he said.


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