Photo by Casey Gomez

A recent spike in crime in the Home Park neighborhood has led to many students on campus asking for increased safety measures in the area. The general trend over the past few years has shown a decrease in crime in Home Park, but this series is an anomaly.

“Definitely in the last five years it’s a spike,” said Chief of GTPD Robert Connolly, “especially coming close to us. It’s been a long time since we’ve had anything close to campus that’s a
consistent pattern.”

The crimes, which Chief Connolly has said are being committed by juveniles, have been a consistent pattern of armed robberies over the past few weeks. The pattern has pointed to a specific group committing these crimes based on the MO of the criminals.

In an effort to catch these criminals, GTPD and the Atlanta Police Department (APD) have both increased their presence in the Home Park area. As a side effect of this increased presence, other criminals have been caught in the area.

Last week, two car thieves were caught and arrested. While Connolly is glad that these criminals have been caught, they are not the criminals behind the series of crimes in Home Park.

However, according to Chief Connolly, these criminals will not be as easy to catch as others —  specifically, because the series of armed robberies is being committed by juveniles.

“We’re working very closely with [APD’s] intelligence units to get as much as we can to assist them to make sure they get enough to justify [that these criminals] go away,” Connolly said. “This is juveniles and as [APD] Chief Shields said, they’re very hard to prosecute when it comes to the court system, so it takes a lot.”

While catching the criminals is a big goal, it is a part of the larger goal of GTPD and APD to make Home Park safer. Recent initiatives, such as expanding the service of the Green bus line and removing the charge for late night off-campus Stingerette rides, have been steps towards a safer Home Park.

In addition to talking to students at a “Coffee with a Cop” event in Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons, Chief Connolly spoke at a town hall at Atlanta Fire Rescue Station 11. The event was organized by the Home Park Community Improvement Association. At the event, Connolly talked about GTPD’s continued efforts in Home Park,  including assisting Georgia Power in the plan to add new street lights.

The main step that Chief Connolly and GTPD intend to take to achieve the goal of creating a safer off-campus environment is education.

“What we want to do is really push the education to students when they come off campus,” Connolly said. “We’re going to start moving on a big initiative about walking distracted. So, when you leave campus, heads up, phones down and start moving and really thinking and have some situational awareness. We want to eliminate anything we, collectively, as a community, can eliminate.”

With the education effort comes increased outreach by GTPD. While they are known for an already large social media presence, GTPD plans on going beyond social media with this specific push.

“We’ll start going out to other areas,” Connolly said. “Add it to GT 1000, and start a big campaign on awareness.”

Chief Connolly has traced this problem of lack of awareness back to the safety that students are already accustomed to on campus.

“On campus we kind of lose it,” Connolly said. “We used to call it the oasis effect. We need to start reminding students that we are in an urban city. We’re not immune once we leave campus to issues that are going on through the whole city.”

In the coming weeks, students going off campus should remain vigilant, utilize the new or expanded services being created by GTPD and the Institute and be on the lookout for social media campaigns from GTPD.