Friday April 19th, 2024 11:46PM

UGA announces list of safety improvements following on-campus murder

By Austin Eller News Director

The University of Georgia announced Tuesday a series of safety improvements for its Athens campus following the death of a woman on campus on Thursday.

Laken Hope Riley, 22, a nursing student at Augusta University's Athens Campus and former UGA student, was murdered near Lake Herrick on east campus off College Station Road. Jose Ibarra, 26, a Venezuelan man who illegally resided in the United States, was arrested and charged with Riley's death.

As a result, UGA said in an announcement that it will spend more than $7.3 million on new safety measures to increase campus safety.

“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 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.”

Among the new measures, the University announced a permanent 20% increase to the UGA Police Department budget to recruit and retain officers through more competitive pay. The increased funds will also be used to add additional campus safety personnel.

Additionally, the University will add more security cameras to its Athens campus along with lighting upgrades and license plate readers. Combined security camera-blue light call box systems will also be installed in strategic locations across campus. The UGA Police Department website said the campus previously had call box systems, but they were removed in 2004. An online petition launched in the wake of Riley's death urging UGA to reinstall the call boxes had reached nearly 26,000 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon.

Finally, UGA's RideSmart program, which provides a 50% discount on Lyft rides for UGA students, is being extended by four hours per day. That service will now operate from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. daily.

“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 new measures will focus on enhanced security in locations where students regularly study and congregate at night, such as the Miller Learning Center, UGA Libraries, Tate Student Center and 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," the announcement said.

Lightning upgrades will include more crosswalks, particularly near residence halls with high foot traffic. UGA will also convert nearly 400 lights on campus to LEDs, which produce brighter light at night.

You can view more information about the funding and new upgrades by reading the full announcement here.

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News
  • Associated Tags: UGA, Crime, Athens, University of Georgia, Athens-Clarke County, Murder
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