ATLANTA -- "Frightening." "Mind-boggling."
Those were the words of Georgia Tech students Sunday night about what happened on campus early that morning.
Two armed burglars easily entered a locked dorm complex at Tech, North Avenue Apartments East, then held up a student inside his dorm room.
That makes four crimes against Tech students, on or near campus, in the last week.
But the latest case from Sunday -- criminals actually roaming the dorm halls looking for victims -- is perhaps the most brazen.
Late Sunday afternoon, an angry father of a Georgia Tech student demonstrated how easy it is for him to get past the locked, outside doors of his son's supposedly secure dorm building.
Tom Schmaltz simply climbed over a tall security fence, using the brickwork that frames the locked security gate as his footholds.
The dorm building is the same on-campus building the two, armed burglars somehow entered at about 1 a.m. Sunday. The dorm sits beside the Downtown Connector and was built originally to house athletes during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.
"Very simple to get into, and I see holes [in the building's security]," Schmaltz said. "My son even said there are easier places to get in."
Georgia Tech police believe the two burglars were posing as students, and a student in possession of an electronic door card might have let them inside the building.
Once in the building, they found an unlocked apartment door at random, walked in, pulled a gun on a student and took his laptop and cell phone. The student was not hurt.
"You can't trust anybody," said fifth-year student Jonathan Skoczylas. He is alarmed that criminals aren't only attacking Tech students in the off-campus neighborhoods nearby now, but also on-campus, inside the supposedly-secure dorm rooms.
"They seem to be getting more and more bold around here," Skoczylas said of the criminals. "To rob a place -- the Georgia Tech police station is right here, in this complex -- it's kind of mind boggling."
The apartments in the dorm building each include four to six private bedrooms for four to six students, with a common area in each apartment for all of the roommates. According to police, the victim was alone in his apartment early Sunday morning, asleep, and when a noise woke him up, he saw the intruders and one of them pointed a handgun at him.
"We're concerned that the student left his dorm room open, door ajar, and also how they got into our North Avenue apartment complex facility," said Deputy Chief Robert Connolly of the Georgia Tech Police Department.
Connolly said patrols have been stepped up in the areas around North Avenue Apartments East.
"Stuff like that does happen, but that's the first time I've ever heard of a gun being drawn" at a student inside a dorm, said a fourth-year student who lives in North Avenue Apartments East, who did not want his name used. "People across the campus, sure, they're upset. At the same time, the guy's door was unlocked. There are things that you can do to keep yourself safe that it's important you remember to do. Now, it's not the guy's fault that this happened to him, but if you leave your door open, you're taking a risk."
Georgia Tech police are telling students who live on campus to lock themselves inside their apartments when they're there, even if their apartments are in dorm buildings that are supposed to be secure.
Tom and Kathleen Schmaltz said, sure, students should keep their apartment doors locked, but armed criminals should not be able to get inside the buildings to roam the halls looking for victims.
"The problem is these [criminals] can get into the dorms to start with," Kathleen Schmaltz said. "And it's really not secure."
She and her husband drove from their home in Athens Sunday when their son called to tell them about the armed hold-up in the dorm room next to his. Their son is the one who called police Sunday morning after the victim ran to his apartment seeking help right after the burglary and theft.
"He realizes that the persons went down the hall checking door handles, checking door handles," Kathleen Schmaltz said. "And the door handle right before his opened. Had that not opened, maybe it would have been his door, that's the scary part... It's a scary thing to have him at a school down here in Atlanta where things like this happen. And as a parent, I feel secure when I drop him off and I see this gate with all this stuff that you have to get through and can't get into the dorm without a Buzz Card. But then when I watch my husband, 60 years old, hop over the gate, I'm frightened."
Police believe the two burglars are in their late teens or early 20s, but say they have only a vague description of them (see below) and the lack of detail, so far, is hindering their attempts to identify and find them. So investigators are asking anyone with any information, any tips about who might have done this, to call Georgia Tech Police.
GA Tech Police
Additional comments from Dep. Chief Connolly of the Georgia Tech Police Department on Sunday afternoon:
Approximately 1:00 this morning a student woke up in his dorm room. Two suspects making noise shuffling through his property. One of the subjects pointed a weapon at him and they took his laptop and his cell phone from his dorm room.
Although we believe that no one was hurt in this incident, however we're concerned that the student left his dorm room open, door ajar-- and also how they got into our North Avenue apartment complex facility.
The North Avenue apartment complex had outside perimeter card readers, and each individual building has card access. So we're still investigating as to how these two suspects got into our North Avenue apartments.
We've increased officer visibility around the actual campus. This year we've received five additional officers for the Georgia Tech police department. We've also sent out emails to all our resident housing students this summer, to advise them to be cautious and report any suspicious activity to the Georgia Tech police department.
We believe, we're very concerned, that its happened on campus. Most of the incidents we have is on the periphery of the campus. But this happened on campus.... So we're very concerned and we're working very closely with our community so they can help us secure the campus.
Students know not to leave [outside] doors to the building ajar. Not to leave them propped open and not allow anyone unauthorized enter our facilities.
Our crime prevention officers are going on campus and actually educating all of our students who are on campus this summer on how to be safe, and about some of the good crime tips on how to not be a victim of these types of crimes of opportunity.
We also have this guardian system that we installed within the last few months -- and it takes a student's cell phone and turns it into a security device where they can call into the actual Georgia Tech police department, and we can track their locations and then use it as timer, also when they go throughout the campus.
And we have also taken the action, the "see something say something" national campaign and put it throughout all of our communication and marketing materials. And our crime prevention officers are using the "see something say something" national campaign.
This time we have as suspects two black males, one with a white shirt red shorts. Another subject with khaki shorts and possible tweeds or dreads in his hair.
We're working very close and actively trying to investigate this situation and get it resolved and to find these subjects. And if anyone has any information pertaining to this please contact the Georgia Tech police department.
GA Tech Police