On Feb. 25, the Area Manager of North Avenue Apartments (NAA), Andrew Pasch, issued an email detailing safety and security measures to residents, prompted by an unusually high rate of personal property theft in recent months.
According to Dan Morrison, Director of Housing, there have been ten reported thefts between Jan. 6th and Feb. 14th. The Georgia Tech Police Department (GTPD) reports six of these were burglaries from resident apartments; in all cases, victims had either left their apartment door unlocked, their bedroom doors unlocked or both. The other four robberies were of unattended valuables in public areas, three of which occurred in the Student Center.
“We normally average between one to three thefts per semester in apartment-style housing, so ten in a six week period is a considerable increase,” Morrison said.
GTPD estimates there have been $6,000 to $10,000 in electronics and cash stolen with each of the burglaries averaging $1,000.
In addition to emailing residents, Housing has partnered with GTPD to begin an information initiative to educate and encourage students to practice basic safety and security measures. Door hangers and posters have been placed in residence halls across campus and Student Staff are encouraged to create programs around security training. GTPD has been patrolling hallways and were joined by NAA Duty Staff last weekend. In one patrol, GTPD tested whether doors were locked and found 245 to be unsecured, averaging seven per floor. Morrison said that was nearly half of the doors GTPD checked.
According to GTPD Captain Randy Barrone, the police are exploring all possibilities, and there is no way to know if the perpetrator is a student or not.
“At this time, there is no information to share with the community that would benefit the active investigation,” Barrone said.
When asked for personal conjecture, Morrison stated his belief that it may be a student because they would blend in and be at ease in the environment.
A student could enter an apartment and if anyone was home, “she or he might ‘pretend’ they entered the wrong apartment if they were caught there. A resident may think nothing of this and, since they didn’t lose anything, they may not then report it to [Housing] or the GTPD.” Residents are urged to report any such incident immediately to Housing and GTPD.
NAA are among the majority of apartment-style housing at Tech that does not have automatically locking doors. Those that do, such as the Graduate Living Center, have a front office in the lobby where it is easy for students who have been locked out to find someone to let them in. Many NAA require students to go outside to another hall to get a spare key to gain entrance to their rooms.
“Students tell us they do not want the auto-lock doors,” Morrison said.
Despite these crimes, NAA are already among the best protected in all of Housing. They have more video cameras than most residence halls, and there are also additional gates barring entrance to the area due to its location near downtown Atlanta.
At this time, there are no plans for additional cameras or physical barriers in the area.
“It’s simply cost prohibitive to put [cameras] in all of our miles of corridors. . . . we have very little crime in our halls, and locking one’s door will prevent most all that does occur,” Morrison said.
Barrone reported that a review of available video has not revealed any suspects.
None of the victims have reported either confronting or being confronted by the perpetrator and no one has been physically harmed. In all cases, the victim was either not home or was not in conscious possession of their valuables when they were taken. One student had a cell phone plugged into her laptop stolen during a 30 minute nap in the Student Center.