Robberies prompt extra security at Duke University

jstancill@newsobserver.comAugust 27, 2013 

— After an armed robbery near the main library on Sunday, Duke University officials are considering a rare response to keep the campus safe – blocking public access to some Duke entrances at night.

The restrictions would be a departure for Duke, which has traditionally kept its campus open to visitors day and night. A decision could be made in the next couple of weeks.

A recent crime wave on and around the campus has students, faculty and staff unnerved. In June, a woman was grabbed on the Al Buehler Trail that winds through Duke Forest near the Washington Duke Inn. In July, two armed robberies were reported at the Duke Gardens. Both locations are popular destinations for Duke employees, students and Durham residents.

Police arrested two suspects in the garden robberies in August. The university had already beefed up its security efforts, including staffing its police force to the largest level ever, said Kyle Cavanaugh, vice president of administration.

The university also has improved lighting, trimmed bushes and trees, and replaced locks on Central Campus apartment doors. Campus officers are patrolling the Duke trails for the first time.

“I consider that one of the jewels of Durham,” Cavanaugh said.

Sunday’s robbery has put the campus on high alert. Two people, an alumnus and a visitor, were robbed at gunpoint around 10 p.m. between Bostock and Perkins libraries on West Campus. No one was injured, and police are investigating the incident.

“When we had this most recent incident, it really has caused us to say, so what else? What are other things we can do?” Cavanaugh said. “I will tell you the level of frustration is pretty high.”

Officials will look at nighttime closures of some roads that are typically used as easy access to campus, he said. One option is Towerview Road, which cuts from Erwin to Duke University roads. The university won’t cut off all access points, he said, and will try not to impede access for students and legitimate visitors.

“It’s a delicate balance,” Cavanaugh said. “We’re an active participant in this community. We always will be one. At the same time, the highest priority has to be the safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors, so we’re obligated to do what we believe would be in their best interest.”

Stancill: 919-829-4559

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