Panhandling poses ongoing challenge for community

The environment at Tech is defined by the city of Atlanta, and much of the culture and status quo of the city seeps into campus. It is not surprising, then, that the woes of crime and vice plague Tech’s denizens as well. With the recent shooting of a Floridian visitor by an Atlantan panhandler, the prevention of panhandling on campus has become an especially pressing concern.

Even with the establishment of Panhandling Meters, the parking meters whose proceeds go towards eliminating begging, aggressive panhandling and burglaries are still rampant. Recent news explains the city of Atlanta’s decision to crack down on panhandling by encouraging citizens and tourists to give money to charities instead, reasoning that panhandlers will eventually move on.

Though the effects of this proclamation have yet to be felt, progress has been made in handling this problem at Tech, thanks to crime prevention efforts by the GTPD. Improved student safety has resulted, despite increases in crime in the city of Atlanta. For example, the number of robberies increased 15 percent from September 2006 to September 2007, while burglaries and larceny both grew 13 percent over the same period. In September 2007, there were nearly 2000 reports of larceny.

GTPD’s Crime Prevention brochure, available from their website at, details some essential safety advice. Students who walk at the edges of campus or off campus are especially encouraged to walk against traffic in well-populated areas, carry minimal possessions if possible, and walk tall and confidently, not allowing themselves to appear nervous to aggravators.

If confronted or attacked, the individual should not resist if the aggressor only wants the victim’s possessions or valuables.

Confidence and protocol are key to one’s own safety, according to Crime Prevention. If the subject is being followed, he or she should evacuate to the closest well populated area or a police station, if possible.

Other safety tips include working with others late at night, not using stairwells if possible, and not wearing headphones or engaging in other distracting activities.

On campus, some students feel relatively insecure about their surrounds.

Scott Gamble, a second year ME, said, “It’s not as safe as it could be…the handicap doors, for example, are a liability, even though the rotunda doors work.” Because of the handicap doors, the doors can be held open, defeating the purpose of locking the other doors.

Some feel that breaking into the North Avenue apartments is very much possible, despite its extensive security measures.

Gamble agreed and said “they wouldn’t even have to be that determined.”

However, Gamble still does not feel that he is specifically threatened. “I don’t feel unsafe, but there’s nothing that makes me feel really safe. I’m really neutral about it,” he said.

Another issue many Tech students should feel concerned about is driving. Some think of a car as a quick escape, while others may notice that it is more like a cage, limiting the driver’s ability to evacuate in certain situations. Advice from Crime Prevention prescribes keeping one’s car in good running condition as well as not stopping to help other motorists.

Common sense is the best tool for combatting hecklers, panhandlers and beggars and avoiding confrontations with these people. By remaining confident and acting smart, students have many resources available at their disposal for staying safe. Staying out late at night to study is common, but staying safe is an important task to uphold.

GTPD and the Atlanta Police Department are both quick to respond to a campus call, and should be contacted even if a simple beggar begins to heckle within campus boundaries. Safety is often overlooked in a metropolitan campus, but with the right set of mind and sense of responsibility, safety is certainly attainable.