In response to the elevated number of crimes committed on Duke’s campus in recent months, police and administration are taking joint steps to secure the campus more thoroughly.
Administration began implementing new security measures over the summer and will continue to do so throughout the year, said Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh. This includes improved LED lighting throughout campus, an evaluation of fencing and signage on Central Campus and strategic landscaping of hedges and trees to improve line of sight from security standpoints.
“There have been times in Duke’s history where there have been increases in certain types of crime,” said Duke Chief of Police John Dailey. “Ten years ago there was a real uptick in robberies. It occasionally happens and we’re fortunate to be at an institution with the resources to mitigate the risk once we see incidents.”
The incidents that prompted these responses include multiple break-ins to Central Campus apartments, two armed robberies in April, a jogger being grabbed on the Al Buehler trail on June 26 and the daytime robberies on the outskirts of Duke Gardens on July 15 and 25.
500 new automatic locks were installed over the summer on Central Campus apartment entrances to prevent incidents like the break-ins that happened this spring, Cavanaugh said.
“One of the things we did observe in the spring is that virtually all of the [Central Campus] break-ins, you might label them as ‘walk-ins,’” Cavanaugh said. “The doors were shut most of the time but they weren’t locked. [The automatic locks are] a small thing but it’s a huge safety precaution.”
Anuj Chhabra, a sophomore who lived on Central Campus during both summer sessions, said he is relieved by the new lock systems after his friends had their apartments broken into and that he is impressed by Duke Police's response.
“That was unacceptable to have friends who can’t sleep because of all these robberies,” Chhabra said. “This makes the campus much more secure.”
Some lighting fixtures across campus have been changed to be brighter and make areas more visible at night. West Campus is now lit almost entirely by LED lights and light fixtures on Central and East are undergoing upgrades.
“On West Campus it has been changed. There is LED lighting, it is now very bright and clear. It’s a better light and it’s of course more economical and greener,” Dailey said. “Especially around the chapel, it looks completely different than last year.”
Cavanaugh explained that students and others on campus are encouraged to report facilities that need to be updated.
Cavanaugh also noted that conducting road closures are also under consideration. He said that Towerview Road in particular is an area of concern and could potentially be closed at either entrance—at Duke University Road or Erwin Road—to decrease excessive drive-through traffic. A decision has not yet been made on the matter, he said.
“We could close the entrance and still allow the areas between [Duke University Road and Erwin Road] to be accessible,” Cavanaugh said. “It wouldn’t inhibit students from getting where they need to go. We know that one of the security strategies to be deployed is simply restricting access to an area. By doing that, that’s going to increase our safety.”
A proportionate response
Cavanaugh and Dailey also noted that the presence of police officers, security guards and supplemental guards was increased over the summer and features new locations with better visibility.
Cavanaugh said the number of people patrolling the campus has never been higher, and will remain high until it is decided that the increased presence is no longer necessary.
“One might argue we have ramped up a little too high, but given the prevalence of what we saw, it was appropriate to respond accordingly," Cavanaugh said. "We’ll continue, as we always do, to evaluate… periodically."
While the crimes that occurred this summer and in the spring may have appeared similar, Cavanaugh said taking preventative action has been a challenge, as there were few recurring facts from case to case.
“The garden situation was completely different than what we had on Central than what we had on the trail," he said. "Those are very idiosyncratic police facts and that has been one of the challenges in all of this."
Cavanaugh noted that the ability to easily steal and sell cell phones has been a driver of criminal activity at Duke and beyond.
“Not unique to us, we are watching across the nation the whole topic of cell phones—the reality is that there’s virtually no one walking around who doesn’t have a cell phone,” Cavanaugh said. “If you go over to Mad Hatter’s, you’d be stunned to watch the number of people who leave their cell phone on their table and refill their coffee. That today is the equivalent of leaving two, three, four hundred dollars lying on the edge of the table.”
At Northgate Mall, it is possible to simply have a phone evaluated at a kiosk and exchanged for cash immediately, Dailey said.
Dailey and Cavanaugh emphasized the necessity of collaborations between security forces. The Durham Police Department, in particular, worked closely with campus security to apprehend Denshawn and Tamisha Thompson, the alleged perpetrators of the Duke Gardens robberies. In addition, the Wake County Sherriff’s Department provided a forensic artist and Durham Crime Stoppers provided leads in the past that have led to multiple arrests.
“I think we’re incredibly fortunate that increasingly, our community gets that this is a shared responsibility,” Cavanaugh said. “It can’t be solely the responsibility of the police department. When we have people see something that is out of the ordinary it’s important to be reporting to the police or to facilities management.”