The Student Government Association’s (SGA) Planning and Development committee held its first fall campus safety walk on Nov. 12, following the upsurge in crime both in and around campus over the last few months.
The committee’s chair John Semmens (third-year ME) greeted everyone at the Campanile at 5:30 p.m. and briefly explained the purpose of the event, which was to get administrators to notice some of the safety issues on campus. Members of the Senate, IFC, GEORGIA Tech Facilities, The Department of transportation and parking, GTPD and other faculty and administrators, including Institute President G.P. “Bud” Peterson attended the event.
“In planning this walk, we wanted to make sure that the administrators get a chance to look at the problem areas safety wise within campus and not just on the outskirts of it, as was the focus of the safety walk in the spring,” Semmens said.
The walk started at the Campanile, traveled in and out of back alleys and roads of campus and finally ended at the corner of Techwood Drive and North Avenue. There were many stops during the walk, at which the group stopped and people raised concerns about safety issues and the preventive measures in place or posed solutions in the lack thereof.
“The key to being safe is body language. How people perceive you highly determines if you are going to be a target or not. Don’t walk alone and in lonely areas looking scared,” said Officer Alex Gutierrez, GTPD crime prevention unit officer.
According to Gutierrez, students may misunderstand the amount of incidents of armed robberies and muggings on campus. He stresses that there have been only four reported cases of such crimes on campus. The other cases were outside campus in areas like Home Park and do not fall under the jurisdiction of the GTPD.
Members of the facilities department said that they were looking into making the path more pedestrian friendly by breaking down some walls and rearranging some buildings around. With the construction of the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons (CULC), there are plans of reconfiguring the parking lot behind the Skiles Classroom Building on Ferst Drive, and making it a transit hub. This change and many others included are aimed at increasing the safety for students on campus.
In addition to the facilities changes planned, the GTPD also reminded the participants of the walk of the resources already available, including the emergency phones.
“The emergency phones spread around campus are easy to use. On pressing the big red button, it connects automatically, and notifies us of the exact location of the call” he said. On being asked what the average response time to a call was, said Officer Ian Mayberry, GTPD crime prevention officer, “A GTPD officer will be on the scene in under a minute.”
The walk did raise some new concerns from Tech administrators and faculty. Some of the concerns included the lighting outside of the Architecture building. Participants mentioned that, especially with Architecture students working late nights in studio and with the path to the library blocked due to the construction of the CULC, safety around this area seemed vulnerable. “The walkway to the library in front of the Architecture studio should be open in a week or two,” said Mike Leasure, facilities utilities and energy manager .
The group briefly discussed the issue of off-campus housing like Home Park also, which has been a major site for crime in the past. Walkers agreed upon the need for students to be careful about walking there, and stressed that students should use the Stingerette or walk in groups.
“Most of the cases in Home Park involve men. I guess it shows that women are more careful and it’s the 19 year old invincible male who thinks nothing can go wrong,” Peterson said.
Along with students playing a role in preventing crime on campus, the GTPD, facilities and all other departments promised to do their best to have the best safety measures in place, but stressed that without the support of students they will not be that successful.
“There are more student eyes than faculty and administration eyes and together we can make this campus a safer place,” Peterson said.