A recent string of vehicle thefts and break-ins throughout the city of Atlanta hit closer to home following incidents at Campus Christian Fellowship (CCF), Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity, Theta Xi Fraternity and the outskirts of campus throughout this last week.
Although it is not known yet if the thefts and break-ins on campus are related to each other or to those from within the greater city of Atlanta, GTPD is investigating with the Atlanta Police Department (APD) to see if there is any connection between the crimes.
GTPD received reports of 13 accounts of larceny from motor vehicle and two incidents of motor vehicle theft that occurred between the hours of 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. on Thursday, May 27. The incidents occurred from Fowler Street to the CCF and Theta Xi parking lots. The next day, two other vehicles on Fowler Street were reported for larceny, though it is unknown at this time if all of the incidences are related.
Late afternoon on Wednesday, June 1, GTPD released a Clery Act alert to the Tech community, and GTPD had sent crime prevention liaisons to the Greek houses to speak on crime prevention even before the alert was released.
“Last night, I was sitting outside when an officer came up and asked for the most senior member of the fraternity,” said Lee Farris, a fifth-year ME major and a brother in Chi Psi Fraternity. “He did say that some of the areas that had been hit were Atlantic Station, near 10th Street and Northside.”
More specifically, GTPD confirmed that 25 vehicle break-ins occurred at Northside Drive and 10th Street on the night of Tuesday, June 2.
“[This trend] is a very rare occurrence, but we are now noticing that it is also happening in other areas in Atlanta. It may not be an isolated incident…We are working with the Atlanta police department for this investigation,” said Officer Alex Gutierrez of the crime prevention unit of GTPD.
According to the Clery Act alert, the perpetrators entered the vehicles by breaking a window, and taking valuables such as GPS devices, iPods and cellphones from the vehicles. The vehicles were in the lot behind CCF and Theta Xi, near 4th Street and Techwood Drive.
“[On] Thursday night, I went to a movie at 10 p.m. and got back at 2 a.m., and my car was still there and the next morning I was alerted by one of my friends that a lot of the cars were broken into. I asked her to check to see if my car was one of those and it wasn’t there anymore,” said Ryan Fahsel, a third-year CS major and one of the car theft victims.
Fahsel’s car has since been recovered by the APD, but he estimates that it suffered approximately $600 to $700 in damages.
“[The thieves] macheted the CB (citizen band) radio out of my car, so I know it was stolen,” Fahsel said.
“[The officer] said that it looked like [the criminals] were well-organized because it looked like they were breaking into cars in a short time period,” Farris said. “They were breaking into cars that didn’t necessarily have valuables showing. They had popped open trunks that didn’t have any apparent valuables in them.”
While some have said otherwise, the GTPD maintains that there is not enough evidence to conclude that these incidents were the work of any organized gangs or groups as of Wednesday, June 1.
“Right now it’s too early to find out what it is, but it’s a lot of cars. Can one person do it? Probably, but it’s a lot of cars. It might be several individuals but we don’t know,” Gutierrez said.
While there are no solid leads yet, Gutierrez does point out a correlation between the warm weather and season with a rise in crime each year.
“School is out, either last week or the week before, [for] middle school [and] high school. Crime usually kind of spikes, and also specific crimes kind of spike, because unfortunately kids, with closing programs, have nothing to do when mom and dad are working, so what do they do? And it’s terrible, but that’s what happens, every year,” Gutierrez said.
GTPD will continue its investigation by working with APD to determine the cause of the crimes and where the thieves could hit next in the coming days.
“We have stepped up the patrols in that area, and we would also advise students to not leave any valuables in their vehicles,” Gutierrez said. “We want people to report suspicious activities, and we want people to call us and be more proactive.”
“You’re kind of helpless and you’re kind of at [the] will of what the Georgia Tech police department and parking are willing to do for you. You can’t really help if your vehicle gets stolen or not; you just want to keep your valuables out of it,” Fahsel said.