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Armed robberies at Georgia State Library: Time to close the book on public access?

I spoke to a bright group of journalism students at Georgia State University Wednesday afternoon, getting there an hour early to walk the campus where I once taught a basic reporting class. I stopped by the library, trying to figure out why it was such an easy target for robberies and hoping the downtown campus had seen the last of that danger.

Nope. On Thursday morning, it happened again.

The AJC reported:

The university said two more GSU students have been robbed at gunpoint in Library North, the scene of multiple armed robberies in the last month . The latest victims said they were robbed of their laptops, the university said in the alert sent Thursday morning. Both robberies occurred before 8 a.m.

At least four robberies have been reported since December — all happening at Library North at the intersection of Decatur and Courtland streets.

Deputy Chief Carlton Mullis said the university is looking into why robberies keep happening in the library. “Armed robberies are very rare at Georgia State and certainly inside the buildings,” he said.

One factor at play may be the isolated study areas of the library, which may allow robbers to remain hidden, Mullis said. “We are increasing our police and security patrols of campus and specifically in and around the libraries,” he added.

Library robberies started on campus Dec. 15, when a student was robbed at gunpoint of his cellphone and laptop at about 1:30 p.m.

High school seniors across the state are deciding where to go to college, and these library robberies cast a shadow on GSU. I have heard parents express concerns about their teens attending Georgia State as a result of the rash of robberies.

Here is what GSU President Mark Becker said this afternoon:

To the Georgia State community,

I am deeply concerned about the recent string of robberies in the university’s library, and I am taking immediate action to vigorously address security issues. The safety and security of our students, faculty and staff is our first priority.

I have authorized University Police to:

•Double the number of police officers on each shift patrolling campus.

•Take steps to secure all exits and entrances, including having uniformed officers at each entrance checking the Panther IDs of all faculty, staff and students.

•Install additional security cameras at the library.

•Temporarily close the library to the public while we put new security measures in place.

•Hold campus safety forums to hear concerns from our community.

We will take aggressive action and put all of our enforcement resources to bear in finding the perpetrator of these crimes.

A parent asked me the obvious question two weeks ago, "Why doesn't GSU end public access of any kind to its library?"

I sent that question to GSU at the time. Today, Deputy Chief Mullis sent me this response:

"We are very much concerned as to how the individual or individuals are entering the Library. Part of our investigation into the incidents is to find out the answer. Access to the Libraries is certainly something under discussion balanced with our interest in being an asset to the greater community. Many of the resources at our Libraries are only available at Georgia State and viewable in person."


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.