Because of its urban surrounding, Tech’s campus is subject to many criminal offenses ranging from larceny to traffic offenses to burglary. The Georgia Tech Police Department (GTPD) serves the Tech community with a variety of departments, from the easily visible Patrol Division to the specialized Tactical Team.
GTPD’s headquarters are on Hemphill Avenue, next to the Parking Office. The department is housed in two adjacent buildings from which work is directed. However, most of the work is done everywhere around campus by the highly visible Patrol Division. There are officers on patrol 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year round. They cover all infractions from traffic violations to larceny.
Sergeant James Searcy explains some of the components of patrolling. “On day watch it starts to get busy 2:00 p.m. on,” said Sgt. Searcy after impounding a vehicle without insurance and proper registration. Though the day watch includes more calls, the more serious calls occur at nighttime. “Fortunately, we don’t have a lot of serious calls we tend to on campus,” noted Sgt. Searcy on the general safety of the campus.
Officer Grant Hawkins, who coordinates the Crime Prevention program at Tech, describes the role of being a police officer. “No day is the same, no call is the same,” said Officer Hawkins. “It keeps you on your toes,” he continued, showing the frequency of infractions on campus. A simple ride around for an hour will usually show a number of minor crimes, like outdated tags for licenses and speeding. Even police-officiated impounds are common, occurring several times a month, usually for faulty registration and other legal issues.
He also states the differences of being a campus-based police officer: “Here it’s campus and student focused…Our approach is very different.” Officer Hawkins provides an example of misconduct and minor violence in that GTPD officers break up fights calmly without the use of guns, whereas in Atlanta police officers have protocol to do otherwise. “We’re here for the students and their safety.”
Debriefing for the officers is at 7:00 a.m., and it consists of daily tasks at hand and general information. After debriefing, officers set about their work and commit to their shifts, which during day watch consist of seven to eight officers, one sergeant, one lieutenant and three detectives or investigators.
“We have a lot of jurisdiction on boundary streets, but we mainly focus on students,” said Officer Hawkins, even taking into account the various crimes and suspicious activities between North Avenue and 5th Street. Most people would be surprised to find that female impersonators and prostitutes loiter at places like the parking garage at the corner of 4th Street and Spring Street.
Theft is still a major issue at Tech, especially with individuals who piggyback or tailgate inside residence halls. As ever, students must keep up their vigil and protect themselves from these perpetrators by abiding by residence hall rules.
Of the calls made in the last few years, there have been no murders, four instances of rape and nine situations of aggravated assault. In the same years, there have been 19 robberies, a notable 116 motor vehicle thefts and an astounding 1,629 cases of larcenies. GTPD can only do so much, especially if students leave their valuables open for the taking.
Occasionally, strange calls will happen. For example, last week outside the CRC three men were selling supposedly foreign food from a cooler. Not only is the activity suspicious, it is also very dangerous.
Though officers followed protocol and removed the establishment, they also found the instance to be at least amusing. One might note that calls like that occur more often in an urban environment much like Tech’s.
However, certain activities require more attention. The Criminal Investigations Division is comprised of five investigators and one captain. Detective Cassandra Davis works with hiring new individuals to the GTPD and the faculty and staff, checking references and reviewing applications for these serious positions on campus, as well as general criminal investigatory work otherwise.
“If crime continues to happen in an area, we’ll do stakeouts in certain locations,” said Detective Cassandra Davis. The division also implements non-detectable cameras in hotspots and collaborates with local Atlanta area police.
Though GTPD works hard to ensure the safety and peaceful productivity of the campus, students are required to take measures to help themselves and the police. By adhering to crime prevention methods and simply following campus conduct rules, a student can ensure his or her own safety as well as another’s. “The students are the eyes and ears of the police department,” says Officer Hawkins.
To learn more about crime prevention, you can download the crime prevention brochure as a PDF from http://www.police.gatech.edu/brochure.pdf.
To learn more about GTPD and how you can give back, go to http://www.police.gatech.edu or visit their office at 879 Hemphill Avenue N.W.