GTPD explores new partnerships as solutions to old safety problems

Tech is a vibrant place. Every night of the week the campus hums with activity. Occasionally, however, our location and our profile bring the added, unwanted attention of those who seek an easy opportunity to take advantage of unsuspecting students. All of us in the Georgia Tech Police Department take the recent crimes that have occurred in the areas surrounding our campus very seriously. Moreover, we are resolved to making both campus and the adjacent neighborhoods as safe as possible.

It’s a shopworn statement, but crime prevention is everyone’s responsibility. Yet it merits repetition: The cooperation and involvement of faculty, staff and students are essential to the maintenance of a safe campus, which begins with an individual’s own awareness and commitment to the safety of the community.

When traveling at night, for example, we encourage students to use after-hours transportation such as the Stingerette. However, we also know there are service limitations, either due to occasions where demand exceeds capacity or because many of our students live adjacent to campus in areas not served by the shuttle. We never want anyone to feel unsafe; for this reason, officers on night patrol are also available to escort students to a residence hall or off-campus apartment. If this is a service you need, please call us at 404-894-2501.

While Atlanta police have primary jurisdiction in all areas outside of campus, Tech police officers work with local, state and federal law enforcement units to respond and assist with student-related incidents or offenses that occur in close proximity to campus. With generous support from local public safety organization Midtown Blue, we are finalizing a new joint patrol with the Atlanta Police Department that will consist of a patrol officer from each department acting as a unit and operating in the Home Park and Atlantic Station communities. This collaboration will produce greater police visibility, resulting in increased enforcement and public awareness. It will also help to further facilitate the information sharing between our respective departments.

By far, the most frequent criminal behavior on campus is larceny, encompassing everything from stealing a bicycle to robbing a vending machine. Of these incidents, a significant percentage can be attributed to repeat offenders who find an environment like ours to be particularly attractive. The cycle is familiar: crime, arrest, prosecution and a brief stint in jail. Upon release, however, these individuals quickly return to the familiar surroundings of campus, lured by the opportunity for a quick score, and the cycle starts again. In fact, one such individual has an arrest record that dates back nearly 20 years.

When the penalty for getting caught is insufficient to deter crime, it can be frustrating. That is why GTPD is actively working with Fulton County’s Office of the Solicitor General, which prosecutes criminal activity on campus, to bring additional pressure through the legal system so that the penalties imposed on repeat offenders break this cycle by discouraging a return.

Despite unusually lean budgetary times, the Tech administration continues to place a priority on public safety. During the past several years, we have increased the number of patrol officers serving campus, and we are also looking at ways we can use technology to enhance our ability to provide a safe and secure campus environment. Some of the options under review include improved video surveillance of campus, and a service that uses your cell phone to provide officers with a precise location in case of distress.

When you see an officer on campus, please never hesitate to say hello and let us know if there’s something we could be doing to help maintain safety on campus. You can also connect with us through social media, at www.facebook.com/gatechpd and www.twitter.com/gatechpd. Working together, we can make a difference.

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