UNC details security costs near Silent Sam for the last year

UNC-Chapel Hill spent $390,000 in a year’s time to provide security in the area around Silent Sam, the Confederate monument that has been the site of repeated protests and gatherings since the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August.

The 2017-18 fiscal year figure was released with a statement Thursday by UNC officials, which stipulated that they do not track individual officer assignments around the monument. It was a much lower figure than an estimate of $621,000 provided by UNC Police Chief Jeff McCracken in a letter to UNC Chancellor Carol Folt about a year ago.

That letter was dated Aug. 21, 2017, the same day as a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper from Folt, UNC President Margaret Spellings, UNC Board of Governors Chairman Lou Bissette and UNC-CH trustee chairman Haywood Cochrane. That letter warned the governor of “significant safety and security threats” around Silent Sam. A large protest was planned for the next day, Aug. 22.

Earlier this week, someone chalked the words, “We have receipts” and “McCracken lied” outside the South Building, the main administrative building at UNC, according to photographs posted on Twitter.

UNC police spokesman Randy Young said last month the statue is in a heavily trafficked area of campus near downtown, and it would be hard to isolate the security spending surrounding the statue only.

The $390,000 figure covers July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018 in McCorkle Place, the large quadrangle where the statue is located.

“These costs were part of the UNC Police operating budget and included personnel costs, such as overtime and contingency staffing, as well as operating expenses and assistance from outside law enforcement agencies,” the university statement said Thursday. “As is consistent with best practices in law enforcement, the University cannot disclose further specifics of these campus security operations. In addition, University Facilities spent approximately $3,000 to clean the monument after vandalism during the fiscal year.”

The statement said Folt’s highest priority is the protection of the university community and her approach to campus safety has the full support of the Board of Trustees, the Provost and other campus leaders.

“Since the tragic events in Charlottesville last August, UNC Police have heightened security around the Confederate Monument to protect students, faculty, staff and visitors, which is the University’s primary goal,” the statement said. “Protecting the monument is always secondary to the safety of the people around it. The campus community has a long tradition of peaceful protests and respectful debate.”

The statement said the focus is less on student protesters than on people not affiliated with UNC. But students complained last year that the department stationed an undercover officer at the monument to infiltrate student protester groups.

“Public safety officials and administrators are most concerned about outside groups, over which the University has no control and who may appear without warning,” the statement said.

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