Local News

UNC students awakened during Chapel Hill break-ins

Posted February 25, 2011 1:43 p.m. EST
Updated February 25, 2011 7:22 p.m. EST

— Police were searching for a man who broke into two homes off Rosemary Street early Friday, awakening the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students who live there.

Both burglaries occurred between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. in the 300 block of Church Street and Pritchard Avenue, police said. In both cases, the man entered through unlocked front doors.

In one break-in, two people awoke to a man standing in their respective bedrooms, waving a cell phone in their faces, police said. In the other incident, a woman woke up while the man was rubbing her leg.

Nothing was taken from either home, and the man fled both times when women screamed for help, police said.

Nearby residents said a man also walked into a third home – also through an unlocked door – on Friday, but police haven't confirmed that case.

A police report lists a "sexual motive" for the break-ins, but police said they aren't really sure what the man was after.

"We are not sure if he just took the opportunity at these two homes because the doors were unlocked or if he tried other homes in the area, but if he is still in Chapel Hill, in the area, there is a possibility he could strike again," said Lt. Kevin Gunter of the Chapel Hill Police Department.

Gunter urged local residents to lock their doors and windows and asked that they report any suspicious activity to police. College students sometimes wait to call, so investigators can't respond as soon as they would like, he said.

"It's awful that that happened to them, but it definitely is kind of a wake-up call for everyone else," said UNC senior Hannah Harrill, who lives next door to the Church Street home.

UNC officials posted an alert about the incidents online, but officials said they didn't plan to send an e-mail to all students.

"This is just a weird, scary kind of thing," Harrill said. "It's almost scarier – something like this – than if someone just broke in and took some computers."

The burglar is described as a black man, 6 feet tall with a medium build. He is either bald or has very short hair and might have a thin goatee. He was wearing a blue or olive green short-sleeve shirt.

Anyone with information about the break-ins is asked to call either the Chapel Hill Police Department at 919-968-2760 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515.