New GSUPD Police Chief Spillane’s plans for ‘21st century policing’

GSUPD Chief Spillane speaks during a monthly meeting with other Atlanta and university police departments. Photo by Dayne Francis | The Signal

The Georgia State University Police Department (GSUPD) has multiple actions planned in the near future to keep Georgia State students safe, according to recently appointed GSUPD Chief Joe Spillane.

One component of Spillane’s plan is a new partnership between GSUPD and the Atlanta Police Department (APD) that began in December 2016. Spillane said the partnership is designed to address criminal activity that may not be directly on Georgia State’s property, but is within the 500 yard jurisdiction that GSUPD has surrounding the campus.

“[GSUPD and APD] are out there really trying to impact crime on the non-GSU students, to try to keep that buffer between issues that happen in the city of Atlanta and issues that happen on the [campus] property or within our boundaries,” Spillane said. “We’re trying to make sure we widen that buffer so we don’t have students affected by crime.”

The chief said he is aware students hang out in areas that are just out of reach of GSUPD, Edgewood, and these are the areas he would like to target with the new partnership.

“I’m going on the whole social media platform to make sure we’re doing timely notifications with you guys so you know what’s going on campus, and telling you what’s going on in the neighborhoods you hang out in that aren’t on campus,” Spillane said. “I’ll let you know if they’re having issues over there, or whatever is going on where you guys hang out.

The partnership is also aimed toward cleaning up city parks within the Atlanta campus such as Hurt Park and Woodruff Park. Both locations, specifically Hurt Park, are frequently mentioned on the Georgia State Campus Alert notification system as crime scenes. Spillane cited GSUPD’s work with Hurt Park’s homeless population as an effort to improve student accessibility to the park.

“We’re enforcing the park rules,” Spillane said. “The littering, urinating in public, sleeping on the benches, [remaining] in the park after 11 p.m. So we’re enforcing those rules to kind of make sure we have control over the activities in the park and make sure they’re following the rules of the park.”

Spillane said his goal is to make the park a more popular gathering spot for students.

“I don’t see enough students in that park,” he said. “They should be in there on their breaks studying and hanging out and it should be something that the students take pride in, and so we’re approaching the city and asking them to fix the fountain, to put some more plants in there, to really brighten up the park.”

At the Jan. 27 university-wide Student Government Association (SGA) meeting, Spillane said the focus is to get Georgia State’s campus police to go ‘greener’, by using less cars, more bicycles, more officers on foot, and more electric-type vehicles.

PantherCard installment plans

Another portion of Spillane’s plan is to secure certain buildings on campus by installing PantherCard scanners inside to restrict access exclusively to students and faculty, starting with 25 Park Place.

“I’ve asked that they put in scanners at the front of the elevator bank,” Spillane said. “You’re going to have to swipe soon to go into 25 Park Place.”

Areas of the building such as the SunTrust bank and the upcoming Highland Bakery on the main floor would remain open to the public, but PantherCard swipes would be required to access the academic floors of the building.

“I’d like [PantherCard scanners] to happen at all the buildings, but there’s an expense involved with that,” Spillane said.

He said the decision of whether or not to spend the money to have a scanner system installed is largely based on factors such as the location of the building. According to Spillane, the 25 Park Place building should be equipped with the scanners because of its proximity to the traffic within Woodruff Park, the large number of people entering the building to use the SunTrust bank and the large number of people expected to attend Highland Bakery, which is set to open its doors soon on the building’s main floor.

In an effort to increase crime awareness in Atlanta areas near campus, GSUPD attends a monthly meeting with all of the police departments in Atlanta, including all university departments. At the most recent meeting, hosted by GSUPD at Turner Field on Jan. 24, the department reviewed the new initiatives that it was working on to improve campus safety, such as its partnership with APD.

Major/Central Precinct Commander Pearlie McKinzie of the MARTA Police Department told the officers at the meeting about an app that they recently released which allows MARTA passengers to report crimes directly to MARTA police, improving the response time of the department to the crime scene.

“If you call 911, it goes into the local call center, which has a lot more calls than MARTA does,” McKinzie said. “[The app] allows for a quicker response to your problem.”

With so many of Georgia State’s students being MARTA commuters, McKinzie said she believes the app could be a helpful safety asset to the Georgia State community.

On university property, the LiveSafe app that GSUPD recently released and currently uses functions similarly to the MARTA app, allowing students to report crimes directly to the GSUPD rather than going through the local call center. Spillane said the app currently has about 2,600 users and averages about 3 or 4 reports per week, numbers which he described as too low.

“I want to encourage students, faculty and staff to utilize the app,” Spillane said. “A goal of mine is to at least double the number of registered users.”

According to SGA Executive Vice-President Shamari Southwell, the government association is also making attempts to improve campus safety.

“We actually plan for a campus safety forum, so we’ll be bringing in the new chief of police and a lot of university officials to allow students to really voice their concerns, not only to the Student Government Association, but also to the university officials to see what measures that we can take to enhance campus safety,” Southwell said.

A plan which matches Spillane’s vision for a more community-oriented policing system Downtown, and a more “21st century policing” style.

Safety Additions Include:

GSUPD/APD partnership

More enforcement of city park rules in Hurt Park

Fingerprint scanners in 25 Park Place

Increase awareness of LiveSafe app


Cell-phone, with the numbers of students who’ve registered for the LiveSafe app.

Registered LiveSafe users: 2,600

Reports per week: 3-4