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UGA president announces $7.3 million safety initiative in aftermath of student’s murder on campus

Jere Morehead

By Joe Johnson

University of Georgia President Jere Morehead on Tuesday announced a $7.3 million initiative to increase security in the aftermath of the slaying of a student on campus last week.

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

Last Thursday morning, 22-year-old Laken Hope Riley was fatally bludgeoned when attacked in a recreational area of the UGA campus.

Jose Antonio Ibarra, a 26-year-old illegal immigrant from Venezuela, has been charged with murder for the deadly assault.

New safety measures to which Moorhead referred include a permanent 20-percent increase to the UGA Police Department budget for officer recruitment and retention through more competitive pay, and to add additional campus safety personnel.

Morehead said other measures will include additional security cameras, lighting upgrades, automated 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., the UGA president announced.

Morehead noted that the measures bolster the more than $16 million in campus security measures enacted over the previous 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,” UGA Police Chief Jeff Clark said. “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.

Campus lighting upgrades will include more crosswalks, particularly near residence halls with high foot traffic, and nearly 400 lights on campus will be converted to LED technology to produce much brighter light at night.

More cameras will be added to UGA’s existing network, and automated license plate readers will be installed in strategic locations throughout UGA’s 760-acre Athens campus.

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