North Carolina

UNC probes alert system breakdown after robberies

University of North Carolina police Thursday were investigating two late-night armed robberies outside a dorm and why the Chapel Hill campus alert system sounded sirens but did not send out other warnings.

The robberies happened about 11 p.m. to a man and a woman who both were walking near Aycock Hall, which is at 100 Country Club Road near the corner of Raleigh Road, police said.

In one, a man told police that two men, one of whom had a handgun, stopped him and demanded his wallet a little before 11 p.m.

A short time later, a woman told police, two men in a white, four-door car stopped near where she was walking, showed her the gun and demanded property from her.

Police did not disclose what the men took from the woman.

Neither victim was reported to be hurt.

In a separate note on the university alert website, officials said campus sirens went off as they were supposed to for a dangerous situation, but “follow-up notifications were not issued for approximately 45 minutes; the system failed.”

The alert system also is supposed to send text messages to registered cell phones, send a campus-wide email and post a notice on the university’s access channel on the Time-Warner cable TV system in Chapel Hill.

At a Board of Trustees meeting on the campus Thursday, Chancellor Carol Folt said the victims were UNC students and said she wants to know what happened with the alert system.

"It's completely unacceptable," Folt said. "I expect a full accounting immediately."

Following university protocol, campus warning sirens were sounded when the crimes were first reported. Sirens sound “when there is a significant emergency or immediate health or safety threat to the campus community,” according to the university.

It appeared that the same men committed both stickups, police said. The only description officials gave was that one man was about 5-foot-10 and the other was 6 feet tall.

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559, @janestancill