Georgia Tech student Justin Myers recently had a very bad evening. He was expecting guests in his dorm room when four armed intruders greeted him at the door. They were able to steal merchandise and knock out two of the 19-year old student’s teeth for two principal reasons: 1) Armed robbers are always armed, and 2) Georgia Tech students are never allowed to have firearms on campus.
In the dorm complex where the robbery occurred, residents must swipe an access card to get through a set of outside doors. They also have a key for their six-bedroom suites. Finally, students are provided with a separate key for their bedrooms. But that isn’t enough to prevent such incidents from happening.
Only three of the four criminals wore masks but all four demonstrated how easily they could get inside the outside set of doors. Georgia Tech does not employ security guards in its dorms, which makes things easier for the potential intruder. Another weakness in dorm security is the automatic doors that delay in shutting to accommodate disabled students. Added to this is the human error associated with not watching the automatic door as other people follow students inside or trying to help out a person claiming to be a student who “forgot” his access card.
Georgia Tech crime statistics suggest that crime is down on campus in 2010. They showed two robberies in 2010 compared to four in 2009; 14 stolen cars this year compared to 38 in 2009; 49 thefts from vehicles in 2010 compared to 204 in 2009. Nonetheless, there are two serious problems to be gleaned from the statistics. First, such statistics rely on victim reporting and are, therefore, always underestimates of the true extent of crime. Second, the statistics showed that burglary is not declining at Tech. There were a whopping 58 campus burglaries for both 2009 and 2010.
Not all of the 58 burglaries were as traumatic as the one endured by Justin Myers. When he opened his bedroom door, the four men rushed him, pistol-whipped him and threw him to the floor kicking him repeatedly in the head. He was concerned for a time that they might shoot him. As they were demanding more money (and he was insisting he only had a few dollars in cash) things nearly spiraled out of control.
In the final analysis, only a 22-inch Panasonic television, a laptop computer, a cell phone, and $6 in cash were seized. Things could have been worse. The crazed intruders could have killed the unarmed student.
So far, Georgia Tech has not done what needs to be done in order to prevent this from happening again. The institute of technology merely put a buzzer on the stairwell door that sounds when the door is opened. I suppose the buzzer is meant to alert students to the necessity of hiding in their rooms and locking their doors.
Engineers and technicians are notorious for trying to make problems fit their solutions. In this case, they have lots of gadgets they would like to put to use to create a barrier between the motivated offender and the suitable target. They will be busy installing lights and buzzers to complement their computerized swipe card systems. But, to date, they have not invented a solution that fits the problem of the depravity of the human heart.
Fallen human beings will always find ways to get through barriers that stand between themselves and the object of their desires. If the barrier is raised with technology backed by good intentions it can often be razed by technology backed by bad intentions. So something must be done besides creating a barrier between the motivated offender and the desired target. That something is making the desired target less desirable.
It does not take a Georgia Tech engineering degree to understand that the unarmed citizen is the desired target of every armed offender. And it does not take any new technology to render the target undesirable. It only takes a gun.
The gun is really a very simple invention. Enough Georgia Tech students own guns that allowing students to keep them in their dorm rooms will substantially deter future intrusions of the sort experienced by Justin Myers. And, best of all, the solution will cost nothing to the taxpayers of the State of Georgia.
Georgia Tech needs to continue its tradition of finding complex solutions to complex problems. But that need not come at the expence of applying simple solutions to simple problems.