Lumberton Kidnappings, Local Rumors Leave Students Fearful

Due to the recent kidnapping of 13-year-old Hania Aguilar among other stories circulating on the web and within the community, students have taken to Twitter and Facebook, voicing their concerns for safety and pleading for their peers to stay safe. Students have also voiced concerns about lack of campus police involvement.

 

Chief and Director of Campus Police and Public Safety, McDuffie Cummings Jr. said that the campus police are being “more vigilant” in parking lots, stepping up their patrols and are on high alert.

 

He also said that according to the Pembroke Police Department, there have been no further information or reports of white vans or black or purple Dodge Chargers that match the descriptions cited in the stories circulating.  

 

Circle K Incident

 

“We did have an incident,” Cummings said, referring to an incident that occurred at the local Circle K in Pembroke.

 

It was 9:30 p.m. when two students, a female student and her friend, pulled into the local Circle K gas station. A purple Dodge Charger was parked by a pump and two men were standing by it engaging in conversation.

 

According to Cummings, the student reported that one of the men said “hey did you see that girl” to the other which “made her feel uneasy” and promptly leave the station.

 

She then called 911 to report it, also citing that she saw the car pull out onto the road and that it made no attempts to follow her home.

 

Campus police were made aware of it later.

 

On Campus Chick-fil-A Incident

 

One alleged rumor circulating throughout social media is that of an incident that occurred behind the Chick-fil-A on campus in which two females were targeted by someone in a purple charger who tried to “snatch” them up or kidnap them.

 

According to Cummings, nothing on the incident was reported.

 

“I pulled the cameras up, played them back, it was pouring rain that night,” he said.

 

Cummings said that there was no Charger in the parking lot at the time of the incident.

 

Cummings says that he fears that rumors are being circulated and that people are believing them.

 

However, he encourages students, above all to share any suspicious activity with campus police.

 

“Report it. Let us investigate it. Let us find out what’s going on and that’s the—that’s the biggest thing,” Cummings said.

 

The campus police are equipped with security tools that assist them in keeping the campus safe.

“Let us use our years of experience, let us use the tools that we have—our camera system, our outside contacts, our outside resources…to help determine if what you saw was or is a threat to the campus community,” he said.

 

Camera System

 

There are a total of 571 cameras on campus that monitor activity daily.

 

According to Cummings, these cameras monitor parking lots, academic buildings, residence halls and typically help the police in investigations.

 

However, the cameras only store up to 30 days of activity, therefore the department still relies heavily on incident reports and tips from the campus community.

 

Call Boxes

 

In addition, there are 52 call boxes on campus.

 

Call boxes allow students direct contact with campus police at the push of a button.

 

However, three of those call boxes were damaged by Hurricane Florence and are out of commission at this time.

 

The locations of the damaged call boxes are as follows: the location between Pine and Oak Residence Halls, the bridge at Village Apartments and the one by Weinstein Health Sciences Building.

 

LiveSafe App

 

The university also uses an application called LiveSafe.

 

Students can download it for free from the Appstore for any device.

 

The app includes a map of campus, with locations of AED (automated external defibrillator) devices and call boxes for student safety.

 

In addition, students can receive alerts from police and send anonymous tips and photos of any suspicious activity to the police directly through the app.

 

Students can also share locations with friends who can “watch them walk” or monitor their movement across campus within the GoSafe function of the app.

 

Additionally, LiveSafe app users can request a SafeRide from campus police at the touch of a button, if they feel uneasy or unsafe at any time.

 

LiveSafe currently has 1,900 subscribers.

 

1992 Kidnapping Incident

 

According to Cummings, this is not the first time that he has seen these things happen in the area.

 

In his 25 years of serving at the university, working his way up through the ranks, Cummings said he remembers an incident in 1992 where a student was abducted from an off-campus location and was killed.

 

Although a young officer at the time, new to the university and unaware of how it functioned, he admits, Cummings said that the incident prodded the university to release timely warnings to the campus community and for serious and potentially dangerous crime, the department releases imminent warnings.

 

Cummings takes these issues very seriously.

 

“If I have a student abducted, I’m gonna do everything in my power, SBI, FBI to find that student and to get that student back healthy and safe,” he said.  

 

The campus police force also consists officers who have undergone training in SWAT, drug interdiction and investigation.

 

For more information on these events or student safety you can call Campus Police and Public Safety at 910.521.6235 or email campus.police@uncp.edu.     

 

 

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