Recently the University of Georgia was ranked #2 in the nation for the best student life in America by Niche. That’s exciting news, and it affirms the positive impact of the many programs we have in place to expand the intellectual horizons of our students, support their individual needs, and provide a fun and engaging atmosphere in which to live and learn.
But in order to thrive, students and all members of our campus community—including our faculty, staff, alumni and visitors—must feel safe. We have no higher priority than the continuing safety and security of the University community, and we want you to be aware of the enhanced campus security measures that have been implemented in recent years, as well as some of the related plans we have for the future.
The University of Georgia is now in the second year of a three-year, $8.5 million investment to enhance campus security measures, including the placement of additional lighting and security cameras; the hiring of additional police personnel; the establishment of a nightly rideshare program launched in Fall 2021; and the introduction of a new and more robust smart phone safety app. These recent measures augment nearly $6 million the University has made in safety improvements over the previous five years for a seven-year commitment of over $14 million.
Since 2019, more than 300 exterior camera views have been positioned to focus on major pedestrian and vehicle pathways around campus. These cameras have provided pivotal evidence in numerous UGA and ACC police investigations for the benefit of both UGA and the greater Athens community. Within the coming year, the camera system will be expanded to encompass nearly 500 views.
Lighting improvements in key pedestrian and parking areas also have significantly improved nighttime visibility for faculty, staff and students. UGA has identified several other areas that will be updated throughout the fall and spring semesters. We were pleased that the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government agreed to accept our provision of $250,000 to address lighting and security camera improvements in the downtown business district and poorly lit pathways to and from campus. We recently signed an MOU for placement of these new assets, based on recommendations made in partnership by our respective police chiefs.
We also have added 10 additional positions to the UGA Police Department in the last year, allowing them to expand their innovative efforts to address public safety issues with both civilian and sworn personnel. Vehicle and foot patrols have been increased in the evening in areas of high student traffic, such as on North Campus, and UGA police will increasingly use high-visibility bicycle patrols this fall. We assign officers to focus on the safety of those traveling to and from downtown in the early morning hours and to monitor high-traffic pedestrian pathways on the busiest nights of the week, and we believe the collective impact of these initiatives will be noticed by our community.
We are particularly pleased with the early success of the nightly ride service, UGA Ride Smart, a partnership with Lyft. Since its launch last fall, over 17,000 discounted rides have been provided to our students in a rideshare program that runs from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. seven days a week.
In addition, the UGA Safe App, updated this summer, allows users to share a location in real time with UGA Police or a friend, utilize a mobile BlueLight, text directly with UGA Police, find well-being resources, see tips for responding to an emergency, and report a crime or other safety concern along with photo and video. If you have not already downloaded this resource, please do so here: https://prepare.uga.edu/uga-safe/.
Although local crimes occurring off campus fall under the jurisdiction of the Athens-Clarke County Police, we remain committed to working in close collaboration—through the measures detailed above as well as enhanced use of technology and joint investigative efforts between our police departments—to help ACCPD protect those in the downtown area and the corridors that lead to and from our campus.
Toward that end, this month we offered an additional $100,000 to Athens-Clarke County to support further advancements in technology, lighting and/or cameras in the downtown corridor as determined through collaboration of the UGA and ACC police chiefs. While no university can ever guarantee individual safety or a complete lack of crime on campus or in the local community, we are committed to doing all that is within our power to help keep our community safe. Building and sustaining a safe and healthy campus requires the collaboration of our entire community—students, faculty, staff and visitors alike. We hope you will join us in the effort.