UGA announces $7.3 million in campus security enhancements in wake of Laken Riley's death

A petition is being circulated online to encourage UGA to install a blue light alarm system on campus.
A petition is being circulated online to encourage UGA to install a blue light alarm system on campus.

The University of Georgia announced Tuesday the addition of $7.3 million in new campus safety measures that come in the wake of the violent slaying of Athens nursing student Laken Riley.

The 22-year-old on Thursday was running on a trail at UGA’s intramural fields off College Station Road when police said she was attacked and killed by Jose Antonio Ibarra, 26, an undocumented Venezuelan immigrant living in Athens.

Ibarra is in jail, charged with the murder Riley, a former UGA student from Woodstock, Georgia, who transferred last year into the nursing program of Augusta University's College of Nursing and matriculated at their Athens campus.

UGA President Jere Morehead announced the new measures that came after a meeting with UGA Police Chief Jeff Clark and other campus safety officials.

“This morning I met with campus law enforcement officials to learn their recommendations for further enhancements. Every one of their recommendations was approved,” Morehead said in a statement released on Tuesday.

The measures include a 20% increase in the police department's budget to recruit and retain officers through more competitive pay.

More security cameras and additional lighting are included in the package along with license plate readers and the installation of a blue light call system. The RideSmart program, which provides a 50% discount on Lyft rides for UGA students, will be extended to the hours of 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. each day, according to the release.

The blue light call boxes will be positioned at strategic sites across the 760-acre campus. UGA officials noted that based on research, these call boxes alone do not “inherently contribute to a safer environment,” so the boxes will utilize security cameras and additional lighting.

In the wake of Riley's murder, a student in the Terry College of Business started an online petition on the website Change.org to urge UGA officials to install a blue light alarm system.

Officials also noted the UGA Safe App, which is able to call police and share the user’s location in real time, has a feature that can share a student’s location with select friends, and a chat feature that allows a student to immediately report a concern to police.

In the last eight years, UGA already has spent nearly $16 million to improve campus security, according to UGA Today, an online news outlet for the university.

“Every day, the officers and supporting staff of the UGA Police Department devote themselves to protecting the campus community,” said Clark to UGA Today. “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.”

What else is included in the new UGA safety measures

  • Additional safety and personnel at sites where students congregate at night such as libraries, learning centers, and the Tate Student Center.

  • Limiting access to libraries during evening hours to students, faculty and staff.

  • Creating more crosswalks, especially near residence halls.

  • Converting nearly 400 lights on campus to LED technology to produce brighter light.

  • Adding more cameras to an already extensive network of security cameras and placing license plate readers in strategic locations.

  • Erecting perimeter fencing in several areas with signs warning that the campus is protected by a network of security cameras.

This article originally appeared on Athens Banner-Herald: UGA to add $7.3 million in new campus security measures