top of page

What will it take?

And as this goes to press, it’s reported that a young UGA student lost her life today after she was reported missing then found near the intramural fields unresponsive with visible injuries. Facts are pending.

Cutting-edge solutions aimed at deterring and interrupting crime to enhance safety, walkability, and cleanliness on the UGA campus have faced denials from UGA President Morehead and his senior staff. Historically, ACC gov has shown reluctance toward funding enhanced safety and security measures. It has taken too long to fund additional downtown cameras and to approve the new ACCPD Real-Time-Crime-Center.

This article focuses on just one program of many which combine to offer maximum layers of safety and security - Safety and Outreach Ambassadors/Escorts (comprehensive list of programs available at Widely successful in hundreds of cities nationwide, some affiliated with universities, this program offers a proactive approach to community safety through deterrence. Recent incidents on campus, such as the armed robbery near Boggs Hall, assault of a UGA Jewish student, July’s drive-by shooting resulting in injury, egregious assault in the North campus Parking Deck, 2 students hospitalized after assault outside Brumby Hall (potential firearm involved), and more ‘suspicious persons’ reporting, all underscore the urgency for prevention, deterrence, and homeless outreach measures. Have we not learned anything from Michigan State University or from UC Berkeley, both dealing with the aftermath of an active shooter on campus? Are we as prepared as we can be on and off campus? No!

A professional cohesive cohort of safety and outreach ambassador services built specifically to our community’s needs and operating in designated zones (piloting with UGA campus and downtown zones), would yield substantial benefits. Despite briefings in Dec 2021 with Mayor Girtz and City Manager Williams, submitting a proposal to UGA in January 2023,, and continued efforts to collaborate with city commissioners and the Athens Downtown Development Authority (ADDA), programming has been met with resistance. UGA says “No!” to funding and ACC gov continues to allocate significant funds for disjointed, incohesive initiatives for similar deterrence/prevention which are less effective. In fact, current ACC spending on initiatives is over $820,000 with another $149,000 proposed for services downtown. Each service contract listed below could be incorporated into a cohesive ambassador program under one roof utilizing proprietary real-time software for tracking of ambassador staff in zones, actual homeless incidents on the streets by identification, and other incidents, with custom reporting readily uploaded for performance dashboards, state agencies.

Current approximate annualized ACC spending through various contracts: Solid Waste: $308,000 for downtown “Litter Techs” to clean broken bottles, feces, trash. Central Services: $65,000 to clean the Portland Loo. Central Services: $35,400 for unarmed security guards topatrol the City Hall Campus (one block). ADDA: $24,000 for Virtuguard video monitoring (random live monitoring by staff 8PM-8AM and daytime on weekends) of the Washington St & College Ave Parking Garage; $258,000 for unarmed security guards to patrol parking garage. Advantage Outreach: $130,000 for homeless engagement (partially paid by ADDA and General Fund). There is an outstanding proposal for $149,000 to provide part time courtesy ambassadors downtown through ADDA. Notably, the ADDA’s independent Ambassador initiative lacks substance compared to our proposed program. We gave ADDA a petition from over 1,200 people requesting a more robust program which fell on deaf ears.

The current and proposed disjointed spending for ambassador type services is already $820,000 most for downtown services. Our ambassador program through Block by Block was $1.5 million which included a downtown zone and a large UGA campus zone, multiple downtown outreach ambassadors to engage the homeless population, safety patrol ambassadors (use of bicycles), courtesy ambassadors, and nighttime escorting by ambassadors to/from UGA dorms and campus buildings.

More needs to be done to ensure community well-being and security above budgetary constraints or denial of vulnerabilities. The past three years of incidents have underscored the critical need for UGA President Morehead and UGA to invest more following the $8.5 million UGA committed for safety and security in 2021, most of which went for more officers and the Lyft ride program (see our program page for more on Lyft program deficiencies). Late this last year, Chief Silk was promoted to Associate VP of Public Safety. Let’s see if Dr. Silk will lead UGA into a new era of proactive safety and security for students on/off campus, populating layers of security first with an ambassador program, to CPTED (including lighting), to more robust saferides, call boxes with even more cameras, RTCC - taking advantage of local state-of- the-art real-time computer monitoring utilizing AI software capabilities, supporting a Safe Zone at least within the 500 yard jurisdiction surrounding UGA property, and more.

The refrain “it can happen here” must serve as a sobering reminder of the proactive measures needed to prevent future tragedies and protect the community. The Safety and Outreach Ambassadors program stands as a transformative opportunity for collaborative efforts between UGA and ACCGov to enhance safety and strengthen community bonds. UGA invests to help revitalize other Georgia towns; it is time to use that experience and reshape safety and security for our town. By reallocating resources from temporary “band-aid solutions” ACC Gov already possesses sufficient funds for the downtown zone to support a program that surpasses goals and effectively addresses all community needs.

UGA Parents for Safety and Security and SafeD Athens Inc 501c3 extension of UGA Parents

2,082 views2 comments


Paul Bunce
Paul Bunce

There's a reason for a 2nd amendment and for concealed carry law in GA. If you're going into the woods by yourself protect yourself and others by being prepared to defend against assault.


She was at a park. Stop victim blaming.

bottom of page