Emergency Preparedness, Energy Management and Lighting, Safety, Security

UGA Invests Millions in Security Upgrades Following On-Campus Murder

The University of Georgia (UGA) announced more than $7.3 million for campus security upgrades following the violent murder of 22-year-old Laken Riley.

“The protection of our students, faculty, and staff at the University of Georgia is always top of mind for me and our senior administration, and we are continually evaluating our safety programs,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “This morning, I met with campus law enforcement officials to learn their recommendations for further enhancements. Every one of their recommendations was approved.”

Historic steel archway on the UGA campus in Athens, Ga.

According to UGA, Laken was brutally attacked on Feb. 22 as she jogged on the trails beyond the university’s Intramural Fields. Laken attended UGA as a student until May 2023, when she transferred to the Augusta University College of Nursing at Athens. She remained actively involved in her sorority at UGA.

The UGA Police Department, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Athens-Clarke County Police Department, and federal law enforcement partners worked tirelessly to arrest a suspect on Feb. 23 who is being charged with multiple violations, including malice murder and felony murder.

Security Upgrades

UGA’s new security investments, totaling more than $7.3 million, include a permanent 20% increase to the UGA Police Department budget to continue to recruit and retain the very best officers through more competitive pay and to add additional campus safety personnel.

Other measures will include more security cameras and lighting upgrades, as well as adding license plate readers and the installation of combined security camera/blue light call box systems in strategic locations across campus. The RideSmart program, which provides a 50% discount on Lyft rides for UGA students, is being extended four hours per day and will now operate from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

This latest effort to further bolster campus safety adds to the more than $16 million in campus security measures enacted during the past eight years, bringing UGA’s total investment in safety and security enhancements during that time to more than $23 million.

“Every day, the officers and supporting staff of the UGA Police Department devote themselves to protecting the campus community,” said UGA Chief of Police Jeff Clark. “These additional funds will have a measurable impact on our safety efforts, supporting the excellent work of our dedicated Police Department team and our partners.”

The additional safety and security personnel will be focused on providing enhanced security presence where students regularly study and congregate at night, such as the Miller Learning Center, the UGA Libraries, the Tate Student Center, and the Ramsey Student Center. Security personnel at the UGA Libraries will be augmented to facilitate a round-the-clock security presence in all library facilities, while access to the UGA Main Library and McBay Science Library will be limited to UGA students, faculty, and staff during evening hours.

Lighting upgrades will include more crosswalks, particularly near residence halls with high foot traffic, augmenting the university’s ongoing effort to evaluate lighting across campus. In addition, nearly 400 lights on campus will be converted to LED technology, which produces a much brighter light at night. More cameras will be added to UGA’s extensive network of security cameras as well, and license plate readers will be installed in strategic locations throughout UGA’s 760-acre Athens campus.

“Pursuing safety is an ongoing process—it never ends—but the institution’s strong commitment to that process is deep, unwavering, and long-lasting,” said Dr. P. Daniel Silk, UGA’s associate vice president for public safety.

Blue light call boxes combined with cameras are being added to select sites throughout campus. Based on existing research, basic call boxes alone do not inherently contribute to a safer environment, according to UGA. Therefore, the new call box systems installed on campus will utilize new multi-functional capabilities that also incorporate security cameras and additional lighting. They will be located strategically in areas identified as ideal for camera coverage and enhanced lighting.

In addition, new perimeter fencing will be erected in several areas, and new signage will be mounted to convey the fact that the entire campus is protected by robust security camera coverage.

Funding for new security investments, as well as previously approved campus safety measures, will be provided from a combination of state resources and private contributions.

Over the last eight years, the university has redoubled its public safety efforts by hiring more police personnel, designing and installing an extensive security camera network, enhancing lighting, establishing a nightly rideshare program, and creating a widely used UGA Safe app.

The UGA Safe app has robust features including, among others, a Mobile Bluelight, which immediately calls the UGA Police and shares the user’s location in real time; a Friend Walk feature displaying a student’s location to selected friends; and a Chat with Police feature, which allows students to immediately report concerns to the UGA Police Department. Parents of UGA students can also sign up for the UGA Safe app.

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