No police alerts to crime spree irk Durham residents
Posted June 23
Updated June 24
Durham, N.C. — Some Durham residents are questioning why police didn't inform the public about a string of armed robberies and kidnappings involving children last weekend until after a suspect was arrested Tuesday.
The crime spree started June 17 at a playground on Burch Avenue, where a man and his two children were robbed at gunpoint and then forced to drive to an ATM and withdraw money.
"I think the responsible thing to do would've been to let us know," Jeremy Thornhill, a father who lives in the neighborhood, said Friday.
Thornhill called the lack of information from police unacceptable.
"I would've paid more attention. I would've looked out more closely," he said.
Thornhill said he heard rumors about a crime the next day, and his wife called police for information. But all they got was misinformation, he said.
"It happened at night. It was nothing to be worried about. It wasn't part of any pattern. The guy wasn't from your neighborhood. He's been captured," Thornhill said, describing the police response.
Instead, a second robbery at gunpoint occurred on Duke University Road on Sunday night, an attempted robbery occurred Sunday on Morgan Street, and a third robbery at gunpoint occurred Monday morning on Morehead Avenue.
Early Tuesday, a couple and their two children were forced at gunpoint from their home in the West End neighborhood, taken to an ATM to withdraw money and then forced to buy clothes and gift cards at a Target store on Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard.
The husband was able to get a Target employee to call 911, and police arrested Rollin Anthony Owens Jr. outside the store.
Owens, 29, remains in the Durham County jail under a $1 million bond on charges of second-degree kidnapping, robbery with a dangerous weapon, assault inflicting serious injury and assault by pointing a gun.
"You don't need a string of crimes to know that somebody kidnapping children from a park is something that the community should be informed about," Thornhill said.
Police Chief C.J. Davis said her investigators are still putting together a timeline of the various crimes.
"Sometimes information gets out before we have an opportunity to explain why things happened the way they do," Davis said, noting that the crimes weren't identical in nature, so they weren't immediately connected.
"Sometimes things aren’t as cut and dry as people think they are," she said.
Still, Davis said, she is pushing for better communication between her department and the Durham community.
"One thing that I am very vehemently adamant about is that we get good information out in a timely fashion. That’s why we beefed up our public affairs. That’s why we’re active on Nextdoor," she said. "When we get information, we want to get it out as soon as possible."