Jacob Baum

Jacob is the Assistant News Editor for the NinerTimes, as well as involved in the Student Government Association at UNC Charlotte.

UNC Charlotte Student Vivek Pathipati killed on University City Boulevard

On the evening of Aug. 2, UNC Charlotte Computer Science Master’s student Vivek Pathipati, 24, was walking along University City Boulevard when he was hit and killed by a van. The incident occurred in the 9800 block right by student housing complex Boulevard98.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Police closed University City Boulevard for nearly three hours while investigating the fatality. Authorities said, “There is no designated crosswalk at the intersection where the incident occurred.” Police went on to add that speed and alcohol were not factors in the crash.

The death of Pathipati joins that of Riley Howell and Ellis Reed Parlier, victims of the UNC Charlotte shooting, totaling three UNC Charlotte students who have died in 2019. Last year, UNC Charlotte mourned the loss of Polly Rogers, who fell from the window of a party bus.

UNC Charlotte said in a statement on Aug. 5, “UNC Charlotte mourns the loss of international graduate student Vivek Pathipati who was a master’s student in Computer Science. Vivek was a valued member of the Niner Nation and the University’s international student community. UNC Charlotte extends its deepest condolences to his family and his friends.”

UNC Charlotte’s International Student and Scholar Office said in a statement to students, “We are grateful to have known him and he will always be remembered as an important part of the international student community at UNC Charlotte.”

Members of the community and friends of Pathipati have raised over $30,000 on GoFundMe to send his remains to his parents in Bangalore, India and to help with funeral expenses.

In February, the Niner Times reported on over 50 complaints released by the City of Charlotte regarding pedestrian safety concerns in the area. One local resident said, “The signaling pedestrian crossing does not work, [making it] very dangerous to cross the road,” while another resident said, “I can’t cross the street from my parking lot without almost getting hit. There are no sidewalks or crosswalks. Very dangerous. Plus, drivers are always speeding in this area.”

North Carolina’s Department of Transportation has begun planning for a project which will focus on pedestrian safety and address the concerns from students. According to the NCDOT, the purposes of the proposed project are to “reduce traffic congestion, improve traffic flow, and enhance traffic operations on N.C. 49. The project would improve the safety of drivers and pedestrians who use and cross N.C. 49 by using an innovative design called Reduced Conflict Intersections to accommodate the students and bicyclists, a 12-foot multi-use path is proposed to be constructed on both sides of N.C. 49.”

The City of Charlotte is working on a separate plan named “vision zero” which is a comprehensive plan to reduce traffic-related deaths to zero in the next two decades. 

NC legislators visit UNC Charlotte after passing $45 million in aid for campus improvements

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) visited UNC Charlotte on Friday, Aug. 2, where he discussed the $45 million in the legislative-passed budget for the renovations of the Burson and Cameron buildings. Moore was joined by a great showing of legislative leaders including Reps. Jason Saine ’95, Dean Arp ’99, John Torbett, Craig Horn, Linda Johnson and Sen. Dan Bishop, according to a release from UNC Charlotte. 

UNC Charlotte Board of Trustee member Teross Young ’93 and Provost Joan Lorden welcomed Moore to campus. Speaker Moore and the legislators heard about the importance of renovating the Burson and Cameron buildings to increase lab and classroom space for fast-growing fields including STEM, computing and informatics, engineering and other physical sciences. The group also visited the site of the new $90 million science building currently under construction, funded by the Connect NC bond passed during Moore’s first term as speaker of the North Carolina House in 2016. The building, scheduled to open in 2021, will have 130,000 square feet of flexible classroom and laboratory space.

In March, the NinerTimes reported that North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper visited campus to tour the Burson and Cameron buildings. Governor Cooper also came to campus April 30 and May 1 in the aftermath of the UNC Charlotte school shooting. 

In March, more than 30 state legislators attended a dinner hosted by Chancellor Philip L. Dubois and the Board of Trustees in Raleigh, North Carolina. At the time, the University was seeking funding for renovations of the Cameron and Burson buildings as well as enrollment growth funding and salary increases for faculty and staff. Dubois reiterated these priorities at the dinner with state leaders.

“It was very heartening to see the passion and excitement of our regional legislators for UNC Charlotte and I was greatly encouraged by their support of our priorities.” said Dubois.

Chancellor Dubois shares his retirement plans

In a year full of institutional leadership change at both the local and state level of the UNC system, its longest-serving chancellor, Philip L. Dubois of UNC Charlotte, joined the list of those exiting, announcing his plans to retire in June 2020. His announcement comes after Joe Price, Chair of the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees for eight years, left the University due to term limits. 

Dubois explained the chancellor position at UNC Charlotte is a dream job that will attract candidates from across the nation, and he is ready to help the next chancellor in any way possible. Dubois also spoke on the success he had as the UNC System’s longest-serving chancellor, investing $1.2 billion into the campus as its student body population grew at the highest rate in the entire UNC System. Dubois credited the success of UNC Charlotte not only to himself but to his wife and the team he has helped build at UNC Charlotte, from individual professors to his executive cabinet. 

In a press conference at the Harris Alumni Center, Chancellor Dubois and his wife Lisa addressed the media explaining they had bought a house in Georgia to retire in. Dubois made the decision to retire 18-20 months ago, and clarified that his decision was not based on the recent school-shooting on UNC Charlotte’s main campus. 

Dubois emphasized some of the challenges the next chancellor will face, including expanding online education and expanding the university.

Dubois gave extended notice of his retirement to allow the UNC Board of Governors to take their time conducting a nationwide search for the next leader of the university. The Board has already had to fill multiple vacancies system-wide in the past two years, including the president of the UNC System.  According to data provided by the UNC System, UNC Charlotte will join East Carolina, Fayetteville State, UNC Chapel Hill, UNC School of the Arts and Western Carolina, who all have first-year or interim chancellors. UNC Asheville and Elizabeth City State have chancellors entering only their second year.

Among the most challenging moments he faced as chancellor, said Dubois, was the school shooting, which took the lives of both Riley Howell and Ellis Reed Parlier and injured four others on April 30, 2019. He also mentioned the recession, which forced budget cuts and the termination of some university employees. 

University City police officer shoots and kills gunman when responding to shots-fired call

A little after midnight on Aug. 2, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department received a call from a female located at the same residence in the 3100 block Ernest Russell Court where police had been called to just four hours earlier for a domestic disturbance. The female caller stated that her father was armed with a gun, and as the 911 operator was speaking with her, the operator heard gunshots fired in the background.  

University City officers arrived at the scene where a wounded female informed the officers that her brother in-law had shot her. She additionally stated that “her sister was still inside the home with the suspect and that she believed the suspect was going to kill her,” as is quoted in the CMPD press release.

University City officer John Juhasz, who has been with CMPD since February 2017, entered the house to confront the armed shooter, and fatally shot the man who was later identified as 45-year-old Delano Williams. Williams was transported to the hospital where he later died from his gunshot wounds. The female victim, who suffered a gunshot wound to the leg, was transported to the hospital and is currently being treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Police had been called to the home that same evening at 8:08 p.m when neighbors reported yelling next-door.  The officers arrived at the scene and determined that the suspects had already left. 

A firearm believed to be in the suspect’s possession at the time of the shooting was recovered at the scene. Crime Scene Search responded to process the scene and collect physical evidence. Representatives of the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Homicide Prosecution Team, Victim Services, Charlotte Fire Department, MEDIC, and Operations Command also responded to the scene.

A CMPD representative said in a statement, “As is standard procedure with any officer involved shooting, the Internal Affairs Bureau will conduct a separate but parallel investigation to determine whether CMPD policies and procedures were adhered to during the course of the incident.  Per department protocol, the officer has been placed on paid administrative leave.”

This is an active and ongoing investigation. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call 704-432-TIPS and speak directly to a Homicide Unit detective. Detective Pearson is the lead detective assigned to the case. The public can also call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600 or visit the Crime Stoppers website at http://charlottecrimestoppers.com/

UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip L. Dubois announces retirement

UNC Charlotte Chancellor Phillip Dubois, has announced his plans to retire from his position effective June 30, 2020, in an email to the UNC Charlotte community. He currently is the longest-serving Chancellor in the UNC System, holding the position at UNC Charlotte since 2005.

Dubois became UNC Charlotte’s fourth chancellor in July 2005. During his 14-year tenure, he has effectively managed the UNC system’s fastest-growing and third-largest institution by headcount with a 43 percent growth in enrollment since 2005. The university has simultaneously made steady and significant improvements in the academic credentials and ethnic diversity of incoming freshmen and transfers. 

Dubois called the announcement “bittersweet,” saying, “It is now time for Lisa and me to move on to our next adventure! This was not an easy decision for us. UNC Charlotte is a special place, with wonderful faculty and staff colleagues, and talented students. And the same can be said of this wonderful city, which we have watched grow and develop in size and stature. But the time is right for us to make this transition.”

Dubois went on to elaborate on the timing of the announcement stating, “that announcing now will give UNC Charlotte’s Board of Trustees, Interim President Roper and the UNC System Board of Governors ample time to conduct a national search for the next Chancellor.” The UNC system has recently been tasked with replacing chancellors at universities including UNC Chapel Hill, East Carolina University, Fayetteville State, Western Carolina and the UNC School of the Arts. Additionally, the UNC System currently has an interim President after former UNC System president, Margaret Spellings, resigned last year.

When asked about Dubois, UNC System Interim President Bill Roper said, “He is an innovative thinker and strategic planner who has steered UNC Charlotte through a period of significant growth to become the highly respected and nationally prominent institution that it now is. We look forward to continuing our work with him during the upcoming academic year and will wish him all the best when he steps down in June. He will be greatly missed.”

The new chair of the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees commented on Dubois resignation as well saying, “Under Chancellor Dubois’ visionary leadership, the University has seen unprecedented growth in student enrollment, academic programs, research funding, and expansion of the physical campus.”

Dubois’ resignation accompanies the exit of former chair of the UNC board of trustees, Joe Price, who left the university this summer due to term limits. 

Dubois has been very involved in the Charlotte community. He currently serves on the boards or Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, NC Campus Compact, Charlotte Executive Leadership Council, and Center City Partners. He previously served on the Boards of Envision Charlotte, Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, University City Partners, Charlotte Regional Partnership, and United Way of the Carolinas. Dubois has also been active in intercollegiate athletics including current service on the NCAA Division I Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of Conference USA.

7-Eleven near campus robbed at gunpoint

According to a Charlotte Mecklenburg Police report, five suspects attempted an armed robbery of a local 7-Eleven located at 8101 Old Concord Rd around 5:30 a.m. on June 28.

Two of the five subjects threatened the employees of the store with a handgun; however, they were not able to get away with any cash from the store and no one was injured in the incident.

The five suspects fled the store on foot into the “Newell Crossing” neighborhood, evading the police. Police were able to locate the suspects hours later and after a brief standoff with Charlotte SWAT, the suspects surrendered themselves to police. Officers charged Zaire Witherspoon, 19, Kiyara Stevens, 16, Nathan Bellamy, 18, Paris Lee, 19, and Dontavia McMorris, 16, with attempted armed robbery from a business and conspiracy to commit robbery from a business.

Anyone with additional information can contact the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police by dialing 911 or submit anonymous tips online through Crime Stoppers. 7-Eleven did not respond to a request for comment in regards to this incident. 

Armed robbery at the local Jack in the Box

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police reports that the Jack in the Box located near campus at 10121 N Tryon Street was robbed at gunpoint by an unknown assailant on June 30.

The robbery happened just before 10 p.m. when the assailant rushed into the restaurant and brandished two handguns, forcing one of the employees to the back of the store by gunpoint. 

The suspect made off with an unknown sum from the business and, once caught, will face charges including armed robbery, kidnapping and larceny. None of the three employees in the store were injured.

This case is open, and the suspects are still at large, while the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department continues to investigate. Anyone with information can contact CMPD by dialing 911 or submit anonymous tips online through Crime Stoppers. 

This incident is one of numerous gun-related crimes that took place in University City these past few weeks. On June 22, a woman was kidnapped and raped at gunpoint and her car was stolen after she escaped her attacker.

Two days later, a man was robbed at gunpoint in the parking lot of Fitness Connection. The assailant made off with the victim’s car and his belongings. 

On June 28, a 7-Eleven near campus was also robbed at gunpoint, and on June 29, an unknown individual stole someone’s car from Haven 49 Student Apartments. 

NinerAlerts don’t follow you everywhere

After an influx of violence near UNC Charlotte’s campus, some members of the community are criticizing the University for failing to issue safety alerts. In the past few weeks, police reports obtained by the Niner Times show hundreds of crimes including armed assaults, grand theft autos and sexual assaults, including the recent kidnapping and rape of a woman at 49 North Student Apartments. 

A reaction on Reddit to the recent kidnapping at 49 North read, “Why was this not announced? I’m just now hearing about it.” The user pointed out she had received six emails about a thunderstorm the night of the assault, but nothing about the crime itself. 

Another Reddit user responded to the original concern saying, “You’d think/hope this would be a more pressing concern.” While another person responded, “It’s okay, they notified us about the same thunderstorm six times so we are all good.”

UNC Charlotte’s Police Chief Jeffrey Baker, Emergency Management Director Chris Gonyar and Communications Director for Business Affairs Christy Jackson responded to the concerns saying they “do not issue safety alerts for off-campus incidents unless it is an immediate threat to the campus community.”

Chief Baker also explained that UNC Charlotte’s Police Department regularly listens to a mutual aid channel with Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) and responds to CMPD when called or learns otherwise of a serious crime off-campus. However, UNC Charlotte police lack the resources to monitor all off-campus crime because it is out of their primary jurisdiction.

The CMPD posts updates on social media regarding ongoing crimes but does not offer a service similar to NinerAlerts, which inform the community almost instantly about threats in the area. Gonyar and Baker reiterated that when there is an active or alleged threat to campus they notify the community without hesitation. Gonyar also explained that many safety alerts from the University are sent automatically when the National Weather Service issues a weather-related alert in the surrounding area.

However, UNC Charlotte issued a NinerNotice for an off-campus fatal shooting at University Village Apartments on May 1. Chief Baker described the incident as a unique circumstance due to the shooting a day before on UNC Charlotte’s main campus. Gonyar and Baker maintained that during normal circumstances they would not issue an alert unless a situation had an immediate threat to campus.

Jackson expressed how important it is for students to make sure that their contact information is up to date in the university official system so in the event of an active threat to campus they can receive updates. Visit this link for instructions on updating your information. Jackson also stressed that students should save the campus police number to their phones: 704-687-2200. Calls to 911 from campus are not routed to UNC Charlotte Police, but rather to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg dispatch.

Jackson and Baker recommended ALICE (Active-Shooter) training, explaining that it isn’t for just school shootings but rather all emergency circumstances. They explained that more information will be available to students closer to the start of school in the fall about additional training opportunities. Chief Baker also stressed the importance of LiveSafe, an app where students can live chat anonymously with UNC Charlotte police, and encouraged all students to begin using it.

Car-related thefts persist in the UNC Charlotte area

According to Charlotte Mecklenburg Police reports obtained by the Niner Times, multiple vehicles have been stolen in recent weeks in the University City area. 

The latest report filed by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department shows an automobile was stolen from the Haven49 Student Apartments on June 29. Additional reports show two cases of theft from an automobile at the same apartment complex during the same day. 

A day before at around the same time, another automobile was stolen less than a mile from Haven49.

Five automobiles have been stolen in the past week, four of which were stolen within one mile of each other around off-campus student housing. One of these stolen vehicles resulted in the kidnapping and rape of a woman at the 49 North Student Apartments. After the victim escaped the car, the assailant stole the vehicle and led a Charlotte Mecklenburg police officer on a brief chase before abandoning the vehicle.

Vickie Roebuck, who has previously had a vehicle stolen from Haven49, shared her experience after reviewing parking deck security footage that showed “someone drove it out (of the parking deck) at 5 a.m. and it was found two weeks later in a parking lot in Huntersville.”

Kacie Wagner, whose boyfriend’s car was the one stolen from Haven49 on June 29, shared that “police located the vehicle also in Huntersville with the window and ignition busted.”

During June, 38 reports were submitted by the CMPD regarding the theft of or from an automobile within a 2-mile radius of UNC Charlotte. 

Since Jan 1, there have been 123 total reported cars stolen or broken into within that same 2-mile radius of UNC Charlotte. It is unclear how many of those vehicles have been recovered.

Anyone with information about a stolen vehicle can contact CMPD by dialing 911 or submit anonymous tips online to crime stoppers. 

Armed robbery at Fitness Connection joins a series of crimes in the University City area

Charlotte Mecklenburg police reported an armed robbery in the 8700 Block of JW Clay Blvd on Monday, June 24. 

A person, allegedly armed with a handgun, stole a vehicle as well as several thousand dollars worth of cash and personal belongings from an individual in the parking lot of Fitness Connection near UNC Charlotte. 

While it is not clear if a suspect has been captured in connection to the robbery, once apprehended, the suspect will face charges including simple assault, armed robbery, theft from a motor vehicle and theft of a motor vehicle.

Anyone with information about this case can contact the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department by dialing 911 or submit anonymous tips online through the Crime Stoppers website. UNC Charlotte students can also submit anonymous tips directly to campus police with the Livesafe app. 

This incident is a part of a growing number of off-campus crimes that have been troubling the University City district in recent weeks. This week alone there have been over one hundred reports of criminal activity within a two-mile radius of UNC Charlotte. Crimes reported include assault, grand theft auto, armed robbery and other miscellaneous crimes, including the kidnapping and rape of a woman at 49 North Student Apartments. 

UNC Charlotte, which has a police force separate from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department, has recently experienced minimal amounts of crime on campus. As the Niner Times reported this past fall, UNC Charlotte has reduced on-campus crime to near-record lows despite the rapid growth of the student body. In 2017, there were 33 reported cases of burglary compared with 154 in 2010.

UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees approves sale of alcohol at sporting events

During a meeting on April 12, the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees voted unanimously in favor of a proposal made by Athletic Director Mike Hill to approve a provisional plan for alcohol sales at UNC Charlotte sporting events. 

The one-year pilot program to sell alcohol was contingent on legislation proposed in the North Carolina General Assembly that allowed the Board of Trustees to set regulations regarding the sale of alcohol in the UNC System. That bill was passed after months of review from N.C. lawmakers and sent to the Governor’s office, who signed the bill into law on June 26. 

According to records from the Board of Trustees meeting, alcohol will be sold at football, baseball, basketball and soccer games starting fall of 2019. The trustees also discussed the revenue that alcohol sales would produce and addressed the other sports which would not have alcohol available. 

According to comments obtained by WSOC-TV, UNC Charlotte plans to closely monitor fan behavior and alcohol-related incidents during this one-year pilot program. 

It was not immediately clear if UNC Charlotte planned to issue any revisions to University Policy 706 which addresses the consumption and sale of alcohol. The University has, however, recently established new regulations on tailgating, which were approved by Chancellor Dubois on May 8.

Woman raped at gunpoint at 49 North Student Apartments

On June 22 at approximately 2 a.m., a woman was kidnapped and raped at gunpoint just feet from UNC Charlotte’s campus at 49 North Student Apartments, according to a press release from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department. 

The 21-year-old woman was in the parking lot of 49 North Apartments, located in the 1200 block of Rebecca Bailey Drive along University City Boulevard, when a suspect forced his way into the victim’s car. He then told her to drive to several ATMs before raping her.

The victim was able to escape her attacker near the intersection of North Tryon Street and University City Boulevard; however, the suspect stole the victim’s vehicle and used it to flee from  Charlotte Mecklenburg Police. After a short pursuit, the suspect ditched the stolen vehicle and escaped police on foot.

On June 24, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department arrested a 15-year-old suspect in relation to this incident. The suspect was not immediately identified but was charged with three counts of first-degree rape and first-degree kidnapping as well as robbery with a dangerous weapon. The suspect had already been released on bond with an electronic monitor for an unrelated felony charge.

This incident is the latest in a series of off-campus violent crimes troubling University City. One week prior to the kidnapping and sexual assault, Charlotte Mecklenburg Police responded to a shots-fired call at the Panera Bread just 250 feet from campus. 

On Memorial Day weekend there was a shooting at the Flats at Mallard Creek, an off-campus student housing development. A gunman fired multiple rounds into a crowd of hundreds of people at a pool party while asking the crowd “if they want to die.” 

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department announced they would increase patrols at local student housing developments in light of the recent violence, effective June 1. It was not immediately clear if police were conducting patrols at 49 North during the night in question. Student housing complexes Haven49, University Crossing, University Walk and Boulevard98 all have had a regular police presence since June 1.

House Bill 241: UNC System seeks $200 Million for system-wide improvements

In the state’s capitol, lawmakers have introduced House Bill 241 to bring additional funding to the UNC System, as well as to public schools across the state and even some community colleges.

The UNC System has requested $200 million for “various statewide renovations, repairs and new construction.” The bill does not specify how that funding will be divided across the UNC System. In January, UNC Charlotte Spokesperson Buffie Stephens addressed the proposal via an email to the Niner Times stating: “Every year the UNC System asks all campuses to submit capital project funding requests to them. The System compiles and makes the request to the General Assembly on behalf of all campuses. UNC Charlotte requested $45 million in funding for the Cameron and Burson buildings.”

On top of UNC Charlotte’s request to the North Carolina General Assembly, UNC Charlotte recently hosted various local lawmakers on campus. On Jan. 18, the Chancellor’s Office hosted members of the General Assembly for lunch and a tour of campus. The following month, UNC Charlotte hosted leaders from the North Carolina Senate on campus as well at an unannounced event in the Harris Alumni Center. In a press release, UNC Charlotte also confirmed that more than 30 legislators from the Charlotte region attended a recent dinner hosted by Chancellor Philip L. Dubois and the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees in Raleigh, North Carolina. On March 13, UNC Charlotte hosted Governor Roy Cooper on campus for a tour of the Burson Building.

UNC Charlotte told the Niner Times that, “While in Raleigh, Dubois and Keeter met with Sen. Dan Bishop, Sen. Kathy Harrington, Sen. Todd Johnson, Rep. Becky Carney and Rep. Jason Saine to advocate for the University’s 2019 legislative priorities.”

UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois spoke about the meeting with state legislators in the press release: “It was very heartening to see the passion and excitement of our regional legislators for UNC Charlotte and I was greatly encouraged by their support of our priorities,” he said. 

Stephens went on to add “UNC Charlotte continues to advocate for the University’s number one priority the repairs and renovations to the Cameron and Burson buildings which are needed to keep pace with the growth of our students in the sciences and computer science fields. The University is appreciative that the Senate and House leadership as well as Governor Roy Cooper acknowledge the need for capital for repairs and renovations on the UNC campuses.”

House Bill 241 is officially titled the “Education Bond Act of 2019.” It includes $200 million in funding for the UNC System, $1.5 billion to the County School Systems across North Carolina, as well as $200 million for community colleges across North Carolina. The General Assembly is proposing that North Carolinians vote on this bond referendum in the 2020 Election Year.

The last time a bond referendum was used was in 2016 when North Carolina voters approved the “Connect NC Bond,” which appropriated $2 billion in funding. $90 million of this money was for UNC Charlotte’s new science building, which is currently under construction on UNC Charlotte’s main campus where the old Parking and Transportation Services building used to be.

The legislation was introduced February 28, 2019 and approved March 5. However, the bill still has to appear before various committees and is still in the initial stages.

On March 6, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper proposed $500 million for the UNC System, more than double the initial request by the North Carolina General Assembly. Governor Cooper announced via Twitter, “If we set the right priorities, we can value our teachers, build schools for the future and expand Medicaid, all with no new taxes on North Carolina’s people.”

On top of the $500 million allocated to the UNC system, Governor Cooper’s proposal includes $500 million for community colleges and nearly $2 billion for North Carolina Public Schools.

The North Carolina General Assembly placed House Bill 241 on the calendar for March 13, 2019, however; after the public proposal from the Governor it was withdrawn from the docket, and is being sent back to committee to reconsider how to move forward.

Students voice concerns over safety

A report published by the City of Charlotte shows that the intersections around UNC Charlotte are statistically some of the most hazardous in the city. Now, UNC Charlotte students and local residents are demanding answers from local leaders. The Niner Times has obtained over fifty complaints that have been filed addressing the persistent problems with the roads and intersections both on and off campus.

The safety concerns from local residents directly affect the thousands of students that attend UNC Charlotte. Campus concerns submitted to the City of Charlotte regard speeding and pedestrian safety. Off campus, the concern is even higher as students have to cross major roadways like University City Boulevard, North Tryon Street and Mallard Creek Church Road to get to campus each and every day.

Some concerns stem from a string of recent accidents. Nearly an hour into the new year, University City had already seen its first traffic fatality. On Jan. 1, a man walking on North Tryon Street was hit by multiple vehicles. After the first impact, the man was thrown 50 feet; the vehicle fled the scene. Another vehicle hit the man and he was thrown an additional 60 feet. The third and final vehicle hit the man, dragging him over a thousand feet. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police and other emergency responders rushed to the scene; however, the man was pronounced dead upon arrival. On Jan. 16, another pedestrian was hit on Mallard Creek Church Road and rushed to the hospital.

These recent accidents brought light to the hazardous intersections that directly surround UNC Charlotte. According to Charlotte’s High Accident Location List, four local intersections are among the most dangerous in the entire city. The most dangerous intersection in Charlotte is at Reagan Drive and Tom Hunter Road. This intersection has been reviewed by the NC Department of Transportation who developed an all-way stop plan to remediate the situation. However, other intersections, like the one at John Kirk Drive and University City Boulevard, have had at least 144 accidents in the past three years and there are no plans to change or fix the intersections. W.T. Harris and North Tryon Street as well as North Tryon Street and University Pointe Drive are also local intersections on the High Accident Location List.

In public safety complaints released by the City of Charlotte, residents and students brought various concerns to the attention of the City of Charlotte for the roads on and directly surrounding UNC Charlotte. One resident said, “The signaling pedestrian crossing does not work, [making it] very dangerous to cross the road,” while another resident said, “I can’t cross the street from my parking lot without almost getting hit. There are no sidewalks or crosswalks. Very dangerous. Plus, drivers are always speeding in this area.” In total, there are over 22 complaints specifically addressing pedestrian safety in recent months.

Other complaints focused on issues such as speeding or traffic lights. One resident said “drivers consistently run red lights at this intersection” and noted that “speeding is a serious problem.”

UNC Charlotte’s Police Department addressed the concerns. Deputy Chief of Police Joshua Huffman said in a statement to the Niner Times, “Students can aid the police department in addressing these issues by reporting their traffic concerns directly to us. If there is a particular area where violations are frequently occurring, we want to know about it. Officers can be directed to increase patrols and enforcement activity in those areas to address violations.”

Huffman added, “The UNC Charlotte Police Department takes the safety of both pedestrians and motorists very seriously. Those who operate vehicles on campus must abide by state traffic laws. In order to ensure compliance with those laws and maximize safety for the campus community, officers conduct traffic stops on motorists who commit violations of the law. Officers utilize directed and saturated patrols to target high traffic areas where violations are likely to occur. Those caught violating traffic laws may face University sanctions, state citations or even arrest depending upon the severity of the offense.”

The City of Charlotte is also trying to address the problem with a new program called Vision Zero which was started in Sweden in 1997. It is a strategy to eliminate all traffic-related deaths and severe injuries while increasing safety, health and mobility for all. Vision Zero focuses on how people naturally behave. According to the program’s mission statement, people make mistakes but mistakes should not be fatal.

Vision Zero explains that “over the past ten years, our city has seen explosive population growth, adding close to 200,000 more drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to our streets, paths and intersections. Charlotte has responded by creating a variety of safe ways for people to move around the city and connect with each other – we’ve upgraded intersections, added more bike lanes and built additional sidewalks – as we continue to work towards the best possible transportation and pedestrian safety systems for our growing city.”

Crashes and fatalities not only take a toll on human life, but also on the city’s capital, affecting loved ones, health care facilities, businesses and many other areas of our community.

That’s why Charlotte is renewing its commitment to safer streets in 2019 with the creation of Vision Zero, an action plan designed to reduce crashes and eliminate traffic-related deaths and severe injuries by 2030. Why? Because even one traffic-related death is too many.