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Break-ins prompt police concern

A recent wave of reported car break-ins around campus, especially along N.C. 751, has prompted Duke University Police Department officials to release a crime prevention advisory to community members.

In the past eight weeks, at least 54 vehicles were broken into, causing an estimated $5,825 in damages to the vehicles and resulting in an estimated $24,861 in stolen property, according to police reports.

"As the weather has gotten warmer, the break-ins have gone up," said DUPD Lt. Sara-Jane Raines. She added that the campus has been hit hard by break-ins since the fall and that the surrounding Durham communities have also experienced heavier activity.

In its advisory, DUPD recommends visitors, employees and students lock vehicles when leaving them unattended and consider using an anti-theft deterrent, such as a car alarm. It also recommends not leaving valuables in vehicles, especially purses, wallets or CDs, but if necessary, to hide them under a seat or in the trunk.

"If your stereo system has a removable faceplate, remove it when you leave your vehicle," the advisory continues. "Exercise caution when using the Duke Forest trails. Consider carrying a cell phone with you."

Raines said police have posted the advisory at the gates of Duke Forest, where eight incidents have occurred since April 19.

"In my experience, car thieves look for enticing targets," she said. "The best thing you can do is make your car as uninviting as possible."

Raines said those responsible for the breaking and enterings have had different methods--some are after CD players and CDs, while others are looking for wallets with credit cards. She said the various strategies lead the DUPD to believe that various individuals are responsible for the incidents.

Thus far, DUPD has arrested two men in connection with the break-ins. Michael Antonio Mitchell, 35, of 919 Carter Ave., was arrested June 4 on three counts of breaking or entering a motor vehicle, two counts of felonious financial card theft, two counts of felonious larceny, one count of misdemeanor larceny, two counts of misdemeanor financial card fraud and two counts of injury to personal property. Cedric Maurice Dorsey, 25, of 304 S. Benjamin Street, was arrested May 28 on similar charges relating to an incident that occurred May 11.

In each case, DUPD was able to use video surveillance at local stores where the perpetrators allegedly used stolen credit cards to purchase merchandise--as much as $981 worth in one instance.

In addition, police trespassed a man May 6 whom they observed looking into vehicles in the Hillsborough Road overflow lot, and they have a warrant out for another suspect.

Seventeen of the incidents have centered around N.C. 751, particularly at the lot for the Washington Duke Inn jogging trail, as well as several gates to Duke Forest.

The most costly break-in occurred June 7 on Towerview Road near Circuit Drive when police found six cars entered with $900 in damage and $5,875 in stolen property.

Construction workers' vehicles parked in a lot off Duke University Road have been hit a reported four times. A June 3 reported double break-in resulted in $4,670 in equipment and tools stolen.