The Georgia Tech Police Department is implementing a new plan in cooperation with the Atlanta police department to combat robberies in Zone 5 (the area encompassing Midtown and downtown Atlanta which also includes Tech’s campus). Although statistically speaking, crime rates are down 10% this year, there has been a surge in crime concentrated around the Tech campus, punctuated by serious incidents such as the separate shootings of a Georgia State student and a Tech student.
The current GTPD roster has 71 officers divided into four twelve-hour teams, each composed of eight to twelve officers. They patrol the four hundred and eighty acres of land comprising the Tech campus and Home Park. In addition to that, a strike team whose prerogatives are targeting designated hot spots of crimes has been established.
GTPD’s new plan will include an increase in allocated resources. What this means is there will be more roadblocks, checkpoints, undercover and plains clothes agents and an overall increase in officer presence. Zone 5 assistant commander Joseph Spillane stated at a June 23 press conference that the Atlanta Police Department has met regularly with the GTPD about shoring up police activity around the Tech campus.
“Utilizing various resources, we’ll be putting this into effect immediately, running it over the next few weeks and reassessing the crime, seeing where we go with the trends and if we impact [them],” Spillane said. “You’ll see an increase in the number of police officers around the Georgia Tech campus…but there will be other people in the area you will not see.”
Tech president Bud Peterson is also confident about the plan.
“We have reviewed these plans and the actions that have been taken prior to today, over the past month or so, and have identified several additional opportunities that we think can continue to foster the close relationship we’ve had with the Atlanta Police. [Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin] continues to assure me that the police department will collaborate with Georgia Tech and with other safety organizations within the area,” Peterson said.
There is the possibility of furloughs ending for Atlanta employees, which could mean an increase of up to twenty officers.
“That would be basically eighteen million dollars to remove the furloughs for police officers or other public safety workers. It will surely put twenty officers back in Zone 5,” said Councilman Kwanza Hall, whose district includes Zone 5 and parts of Home Park.
Although there has been a spike in crime around campus, Spillane does not believe Tech students are being targeted as a group. People are being robbed everywhere but Tech cases are more high-profile.
What student victims and Atlanta citizen victims have in common is that they were often individuals alone at night.
“If you read the reports, [the crimes] happen between 10 p.m. and 4 in the morning,” Spillane said. “If you look at the crime statistics and the number of robberies in Zone 5 and you look at the number of students robbed, the number is relatively low. We’re concerned with robberies everywhere, but we want to make sure the students at Georgia Tech feel safe and that you know that we’re working with [GTPD] to make that happen.”
Despite the attention surrounding the recent crimes, police stress that they do not feel there is a reason to be overly worried and that the campus is still a safe place.
“The campus is very safe for our students,” Spillane said.