Blue call boxes with their glowing lights dot Georgia State’s downtown campus, ready to contact the Georgia State University Police Department (GSUPD) with a push of a button. At least, that’s what they would do if they were fully functioning.
Tour guides and orientation leaders tell prospective students that call boxes are an essential aspect of safety that the university provides. However, according to GSUPD Chief Joseph Spillane, students should not rely on the call boxes to work at all and they’ve even put signs on the boxes stating that.
“I think there’s only one or two of them working out of 68 boxes,” he said. “There’s some of them hanging on the buildings on Decatur Street. You can’t even hardly notice them. They’re so faded out. They’ve been there so long.”
One of the reasons why the boxes don’t work is because of outdated technology.
“The technology that’s in those old call boxes are from the late ‘70s and ‘80s, so some of those boxes have been inoperable for years,” Spillane said.
GSUPD is also aware of the fact these callboxes have been “inoperable for years.”
“Well, I just got here. I think they have known about it. They just haven’t done anything about it. I’m the first one to have a plan to actually address it … I’m going to take all of the old ones out but I’m going to replace them with new higher-tech ones that’ll last another 10 years.”
However, Spillane doesn’t plan to replace all of the call boxes.
“My plan is to pull them out. I’ve got a plan to replace several in key locations. For instance, at Piedmont North, at the Commons, at the Student Center,” he said.
The call boxes won’t be replaced until another one of GSUPD’s projects is complete: a new dispatch center.
“The boxes cost about $8,000 for the new ones that has a camera on top of it and rings directly into my dispatch center,” Spillane said. “I’m building out a new dispatch center right in 100 Auburn [Avenue] in the basement, so about a $2 million project. That will come online next month.”
As soon as the dispatch center is completed, Spillane said GSUPD will begin replacing the boxes.
“My plan is start rolling out new call boxes after that center’s open because when you press a button it’ll ring to that center, and the camera on top will come up on the video wall. So if a student hits the button we’re going to see what’s going on [at] the call box,” he said.
Spillane said the newer call boxes will be installed in high-traffic areas on campus.
“Like Student Center East and West, Piedmont North, those areas where we have a high concentration of students, we’ll put the new call boxes that have the camera on top and the solar panel. And they’re also operated by 4G instead of digital.”
If students want or need to use call boxes, they’ll have to wait a couple months before they’re replaced.
“We just built out a brand new center. There used to be a data center on one side of that with a floating floor, and we took that spot and put a new generation and new equipment in,” Spillane said. “We’ll do a grand opening in December.”
In the meantime, Spillane said students should download and use the LiveSafe app to contact GSUPD for emergencies or escorts.