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A look at campus crime: Drop in DukeAlerts for 2017-2018

Far fewer DukeALERTS were issued from June 2017 to 2018 than the previous year.

Members of the Duke community only received three DukeALERTS this past year, compared to the 10 alerts released from June 2016 to 2017. Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh wrote in an email to The Chronicle that these numbers tend to vary from year to year. Many of last year’s DukeALERTs were issued in response to alleged incidents “near, but slightly off campus,” Cavanaugh added.

DukeALERT not issued for attempted kidnapping 

One of the most notable incidents on campus this year—an attempted kidnapping of a student—did not receive a DukeALERT. In February, a student on Yearby Street in Central Campus reported that a man in an unmarked white van approached her, reportedly saying, “you are my dream—get in the van.” The student walked away from the man unscathed and reported the incident to a nearby security guard. 

Although no DukeALERT was issued, Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, sent an email to students approximately five and a half hours after the reported incident, which went viral on social media. 

“Information about this incident is spreading widely across social media and while I do not want to minimize the troubling nature of this incident, I do want to calm excessive fears,” Moneta wrote in the email to students. “Duke Police are fully engaged in investigation of the incident and we will continue to deploy additional security staff in Central Campus as we have for quite awhile. Your safety remains our highest priority.”

Cavanaugh did not respond directly to a question from The Chronicle about why a DukeALERT was not issued for this incident. 

“Unlike cities, neighborhoods, or even K-12 schools, the federal government prescribes requirements for timely warnings for colleges and universities,” Cavanaugh wrote. “Each situation is reviewed individually based upon the specific details and circumstances to determine if and when a timely warning is issued.”

The man, who was not affiliated with Duke, was later identified and banned from campus, Moneta wrote in an email. 

Crime in 2017-18

After five sexual assaults were reported for criminal investigation last year, that number dropped to two, Cavanaugh wrote. He noted that just one of the incidents involved a Duke student, and that no investigation was undertaken at the victim's behest. 

The most common crime on campus and at Duke University Medical Center remains theft of items left unattended, Cavanaugh added. The most recent Duke Student Experiences Survey, issued in February of 2017, stated that a "clear majority of students at all levels reported feeling safe on campus."

“Overall, Duke continues to be a safe place for students, faculty, staff, and visitors,” Cavanaugh wrote. 

Duke has also made a “significant investment” in improving security in recent years by increasing staffing, security cameras and lighting, Cavanaugh explained.

He also highlighted the new LiveSafe Mobile app that provides users with easy access to emergency contacts, a way to submit tips and a feature called "SafeWalk," which allows a friend to virtually track a user until they arrive safely to their destination. 


September 29, 2017

Two students encountered a suspicious man inside a West Campus dorm room. Neither student knew the approximately 30-year-old man, who was in the room when they walked in. John Dailey, chief of the Duke University Police Department (DUPD), said that the man was able to enter because the door was left unlocked, but added that nothing was stolen. 

At the time, sophomore Robin Yeh criticized an alleged lack of security measures in place, saying there were "no cameras to go off of." In June of 2017, Dailey said that the DUPD would be installing cameras in West Campus residence halls for the 2017-2018 academic year.

Cavanaugh noted in an email to The Chronicle that there has been a "systematic approach" over the past three years to install security cameras near all residential entrances on East and West Campus.

November 26, 2017

A visitor to the Duke Gardens’ Doris Duke Center was robbed at gunpoint at the visitor's desk. The suspect, donning a ski-mask, allegedly approached the visitor with a silver handgun and demanded money. Less than $100 was taken, according to Chuck Hemric, director of volunteer services at Duke Gardens. 

March 1, 2018  

A student reported a strong armed robbery just off East Campus. Per the DukeALERT, the student walked back from downtown Durham around 3:10 a.m. and was approached by two suspects, who hit the victim, took the student's wallet and then left. No serious injuries were reported. 

Ben Leonard

Managing Editor 2018-19, 2019-2020 Features & Investigations Editor 

A member of the class of 2020 hailing from San Mateo, Calif., Ben is The Chronicle's Towerview Editor and Investigations Editor. Outside of the Chronicle, he is a public policy major working towards a journalism certificate, has interned at the Tampa Bay Times and NBC News and frequents Pitchforks. 


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