Student, Officers Address Campus Crime Concerns
Civil engineering major Patrick Whaley kicked off a crime prevention awareness meeting, held in the Student Center ballroom the evening of Thursday, Aug. 27. Officers from the Atlanta and Georgia Tech Police Departments addressed a standing room—only crowd at the hour-long event organized by the Student Government Association.
Recounting his own experience as a shooting victim in an armed robbery, Whaley wanted to deliver a message to students: "You are not invincible, and we must band together to be a strong community."
"At first I thought it was a prank," Whaley said, referring to the May 4 incident. "I didn't think anything could touch me. A lot of Georgia Tech students have a false sense of security. No matter how strong you think you are, if you give a 17-year-old a gun, he's stronger." Three suspects have been arrested in the incident, according to the Atlanta Police Department (APD).
Whaley called for the campus community to unite and use common sense. "We can't go walking around at 3 a.m. with full book bags," he said. "They [criminals] travel in packs-so should we. If you need to walk across campus, use the Stingerette or call a friend. We can all work together to make this campus as safe as we want it to be."
Georgia Tech Police Chief Teresa Crocker and Crime Prevention Officer Ian Mayberry addressed the crowd before answering questions from the audience. Crocker and Mayberry, stating that the major crime on campus is theft, wanted students to know that the department is not oblivious to the more serious crimes around the campus. "Learn from what Patrick said-there are people out there who want to make you their target," Crocker said. "A lot of the thefts [at Tech] are from people coming onto the campus."
APD Sgt. Reginald Moorman, a supervisor with the Zone 5 precinct-in which Tech is situated-provided advice and tips for off-campus students. While stating it was not his intention to spread fear among students concerning crime, he did want them to be aware and acclimate to living in a big city.
"We don't want you to be scared, but we do want you to be aware of your surroundings," he said. "If you go outside by yourself [at night], you become a target. Don't place yourself in harm's way if you don't have to [do so]."
Armed robberies on campus are down 43 percent from last year, and are down 20 percent in Zone 5, according to Mayberry. But, he acknowledged that perception equals reality for students. "Crime remains a part of our society," he said. "If you choose to be out at 3 a.m. and don't take advantage of our services, then you become a victim waiting for a perpetrator."
Mayberry went on to suggest students with bicycles should invest in U-locks and that people should not leave laptops unattended in the library, in classrooms or in coffee shops. "We [GTPD] do our best to be everywhere in the area, but it's impossible. A strong community is the best crime deterrent there is," Mayberry said, echoing Whaley's sentiment. He also told students they could sign up for GTPD Crime Alerts and the Georgia Tech Emergency Notification System (GTENS) on the GTPD Web site.
Moorman advised off-campus students to ensure they have adequate lighting around their homes and surrounding areas, and work with neighborhood associations to become involved in crime prevention efforts. "Check with your leasing agents and make sure they are taking the steps so that you are safe," he said. "That's part of their job."
When asked what to do if one becomes a victim of a robbery, Mayberry said students should comply with what is asked. "These people typically want money or items," he said. "After an incident, get in contact with the police immediately. The sooner, the better." He cited an incident that took place in the early morning hours of Aug. 27, when two women were robbed after leaving a club. After the women called 911, both GTPD and APD officers were able to apprehend a suspect, which was positively identified by the victims. "Get a good description of the suspects-height, weight, facial hair, clothing-anything."
SGA members informed the crowd that the Stingerette Shuttle, which provides individual student rides across campus from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m., has expanded its program to include Home Park and Centennial Place. Punch cards offering 10 rides for $40 are sold in the Parking and Transportation Office, located at 828 West Peachtree St. Evening and weekend parking permits also are available at a reduced rate.
"Georgia Tech is the greatest place on earth," Whaley said. "We need to stand tall and stand united."