Deputy Chief of Police tackles safety issues

Safety, crime and prevention are important to Robert Connolly. As Deputy Chief of the Georgia Tech Police Department (GTPD), he oversees the day-to-day operations of GTPD and its four divisions in Savannah, Support, Criminal Investigation and Patrol.

Larceny remains the most common crime on campus, accounting for 236, or 93%, of crimes reported this year. Wallets, laptops, bicycles and cell phones are the most frequently stolen items on campuses.

“[Students should] be mindful of [their] surroundings and secure their property. Use u-bolts on their bicycles instead of chains, be aware of their surroundings, and just secure their property,” Connolly advises.

Despite warnings, many students continue to leave valuable property unattended and open to theft. GTPD has taken additional measures to educate students on crimes of opportunity. Plainclothes officers can be found throughout campus, educating students after seeing them leaving their valuables unattended.

“One of the biggest things they do is they sweep the buildings, and they’ll see people that don’t belong in the building, and they’ll challenge them,” Connolly said.

Plainclothes officers have made a number of arrests on wanted persons since the program started, deterring many thefts.

“Tailgating,” or allowing unauthorized personnel into buildings, has also become a problem. “If you see someone that comes behind you, then notify us immediately,” Connolly said.

GTPD has adopted the Department of Homeland Security’s “See Something, Say Something” campaign in an effort to increase safety on campus. A case last year in which a student reported suspicious activity led to the arrest of a repeat offender who was trying to steal a laptop.

Randy Ory, GTPD’s crime analyst, watches criminal activity and tracks crime statistics throughout campus.

“When he sees trends and patterns, he puts out reports, and we shift our personnel to where we need it,” Connolly said.

Ory tracks the frequency and location of crimes by type.

“For instance, with bike thefts, if it’s at a classroom building then it’s typically during the day when you’d expect to see more bikes there and people are in class. At night, we’re getting bikes stolen from the residence halls because that’s when nobody’s out there,” Ory said.

Recently, thefts have risen in the CRC and the adjacent SAC fields.

“If somebody is playing a game, they’ll leave all their stuff unattended on the side of the field. There’s nobody watching it; it’s a crime of opportunity,” said Ory.

The GTPD also monitors activity just off campus.

“It’s not just the campus, but the community around the campus that were concerned with, because most students live there too,” said Connolly.

GTPD has partnered with the Atlanta Police Department to patrol the Home Park community. A joint patrol car monitors the area, varying its route depending on recent crime patterns and trends.

GTPD has also partnered with Georgia State patrol. Earlier this month, a press release by Tech announced that GTPD investigators, working with Crime Stoppers and the Atlanta Police Department, led to the arrest of Steven Terry, also known as the “Turk,” for armed robbery, burglary and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

For students, Connolly finds that some students continue to exercise poor judgement when it comes to exposing expensive technology in public spaces on campus.

Serious crimes, though, only make a small fraction of total crimes on campus.

“The campus is very safe. We have plenty of officers on campus to keep visibility up. It’s when they go off campus and away from the campus is when we’re most concerned,” Connolly said.