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Tech takes top honors -- for thefts

Campus among highest in property crimes


Georgia Tech is ranked among the best colleges in the country, but according to FBI stats released Oct. 23, the school also bears a more dubious distinction. Tech's near the top of the list when it comes to thefts on campus.

Out of 387 schools, Tech claimed the fourth-highest percentage of property crimes per student in 2002, an analysis of the FBI numbers shows.

Earlier this month, Tech freshman Courtland Pegan was climbing into his dorm room bed when he looked out the window of Smith hall and saw a man trying to cut a bike chain. Pegan's roommate called campus police, who within minutes caught the would-be thief. Pegan later identified him.

"There's all kinds of incidences of people getting their bikes stolen or getting the wheels taken off that you hear a lot about," Pegan says. "It's just hard to keep things secure outside on the Tech campus."

Tech spokesman Bob Harty attributes the high number of property crimes -- which he describes mostly as bike thefts and car break-ins -- to ongoing campus construction.

"I'm not implying that construction workers steal stuff," Harty says. "What I'm saying is, you just have a lot more people on campus on a constant basis that aren't normally on a college campus. And I think people have a tendency not to pay as much attention to strangers."

Tech's prevalence of petty crimes may also have something to do with the large number of students living on a campus nestled in a big city. On average, slightly more than one out of every 10 Tech students were victims of burglary and theft in 2002, according to the FBI stats. At nearby Georgia State, where few students live on campus, fewer than one out of 25 students were property crime victims. And at the mammoth University of Georgia in Athens, where many students live in dorms, less than 3 percent of students were property crime victims.

Several schools did see more than Tech's 1,149 property crimes. But those schools' populations far outnumbered Tech's 10,745.

Just three schools fared worse. Nearly 17 percent of Duke University students were property crime victims in 2002. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Vanderbilt trailed Duke, at 15 percent and 12 percent respectively.

Tech did have a relatively low occurrence of violent crime -- just 11 armed robberies. Duke, on the other hand, saw 22 violent crimes committed against 6,325 students. Among Vanderbilt's 6,000 students, there were 21 violent crimes.

And in Atlanta, 16 of Georgia State's 16,444 students were victims of violent crimes, as were eight of Emory's 6,316.

It's a cruel coincidence, then, that on the very day the FBI numbers were released a Tech student was robbed at gunpoint. And just nine days later, a second armed robbery occurred, according to a Nov. 7 story in Tech's student newspaper, Technique.

Harty, citing typically low incidences of violent crime, says two armed robberies so close together hasn't been the norm. "We hope that's an aberrant situation," he says.

Harty also points out that Tech has approved the addition of 15 more cops to the campus police department.

"We've actually done very well on the violent crime side," Harty says. "It's not like property crimes aren't a problem. But if I had to pick, I'd rather people were getting their bikes ripped off than getting held up."

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