While Tech has always dealt with crime around its perimeter, a string of violent incidents has placed the Tech campus on alert. Georgia Tech Police have responded to what officer Grant Hawkins calls “a surge in crime in all of Atlanta” through increased patrolling and awareness campaigns. However, the number of students affected has continued to grow.
In one of these incidents, while students waited Sunday inside the Papa John’s located at 10th Street and State Street, two men entered brandishing guns and instructed everyone to lie face down. After taking money from the safe, the suspects fled the area.
Also last weekend, two students were carjacked at gun point next to the Graduate Living Center on 10th Street. As they were getting out of their car, a white sedan pulled up and two men exited, pointing a gun at the driver and demanding the keys to the car.
Once the driver handed the keys over, the suspects fled. Atlanta Police later caught up with the suspects on Marietta Street, near the M Street Apartments. They abandoned the car in a parking lot and were not found.
“Right now we are seeing a definite increase in crime both off- and on-campus. The crimes off campus are a little more against person, while on campus the biggest current rise we’ve seen is in property theft. We’re hoping students will be vigilant when they see things that seem suspicious,” Hawkins said.
Other armed robberies that occurred earlier this month in the area, are also still being investigated by Atlanta Police. In both instances, students were approached by a group of armed black men who then fled the scene on foot or by car. The first occurred in the area of Atlantic Drive and Home Park on March 16, when a man was walking home and was approached by two men who demanded his wallet after displaying a gun. The second occurred in the area of Tenth Street and Hemphill Avenue on March 23, as two pedestrians were approached by three men carrying guns who forced them onto the ground and robbed them. One of the suspects was apprehended in that case after police located a vehicle matching a description given by the victims.
“Atlanta Police has not made any arrests…[but] we have established a highly visible extra patrol officer in the area where we see an increased incidence occurring to hopefully apprehend and deter criminals,” Hawkins said.
Jimmy John’s on 14th St. was also the site of an armed burglary similar to what occurred at Papa John’s. On February 22, three men held up the sandwich shop at gunpoint.
On the other end of campus, the tunnel under the interstate near the East Campus residences has also been the site of violent incidents. Wednesday, a student across the tunnel from Tech had his iPod stolen by a man carrying a saw who threatened to shoot the student. On March 18, a student walking in the tunnel was grabbed behind by a man who searched his pockets. The student was carrying nothing of value and was not injured.
Property theft on campus is also on the rise. Last month, a theft at the Campus Recreation Center struck Michael Milholen, a fourth-year computer science major. He was left without his wallet, cell phone, and apartment and car keys. The items were taken from one of the day lockers in the men’s locker room while he worked out.
“When I came back three hours later everything was gone,” Milholen said.
Once a Georgia Tech police officer arrived, Milholen learned he was not alone.
“[The police offer] told me it was the third time he had come out to the CRC for the same issue that same day,” Milholen said.
Following this series of incidents, the CRC has placed advisory notices throughout the locker rooms. Milholen, who said no suspects were ever identified, now uses the day lockers in the open area or takes his belongings with him to the exercise machines.
“The best advice is to be aware of your surroundings and be alert…Especially if anyone shows a weapon, gun, knife, or looks like they are going to hurt you, we advise you go ahead and follow their instructions, and hopefully that will prevent a student from being hurt,” Hawkins said.
Tech held its annual Campus Safety Walk on Tuesday to identify unsafe areas of campus.