The University of Georgia remains committed to enhancing the culture of safety for all students, staff, faculty and visitors. Now in its third year, results from UGA’s $8.5 million commitment to support multiple safety initiatives can be seen across campus and beyond.
In December 2021, the UGA Ride Smart program was launched to provide an on-demand, late-night transportation program for students as part of the university’s commitment to safety. In partnership with Lyft, students are eligible to receive discounts on up to four rides per month. As of November 1, 2022, the per-ride portion provided by UGA increased to $7.50 per ride, a 50% increase from the previous maximum of $5.00 per ride. Since its inception, nearly 28,000 discounted rides have been provided to students.
“I have heard overwhelming praise from students about the rideshare initiative,” said Student Government Association President Bryson Henriott. “The discounts seamlessly and automatically link to students’ Lyft accounts and as knowledge about it continues to grow, I have heard of more and more students starting to use the discounted rides. The increase in cost coverage from the University will only further help student safety across campus and the Athens community.”
New safety information and updates are also regularly made available on the Watch for Dawgs website, including information for pedestrians, news updates and micromobility safety tips.
The university’s resource commitment to public safety has also allowed the UGA Police Department to innovate in several ways, harnessing opportunities to facilitate safety via both staffing and technology.
To fulfill its commitment of hiring more personnel, the Police Department has amplified its efforts to recruit new officers, expanding its outreach to institutes of higher education in the southeast. To supplement and support the work of patrol officers, detectives and 911 personnel, a second crime analyst position was added to the department’s roster. Additionally, three new 911 communications officer positions were created in 2022 to allow communications personnel to access cameras and other technologies as emergencies develop to provide real-time information to patrol officers. The Facilities Management Division also added an additional security systems administrator to focus on security camera projects.
Nearly half of the dedicated $8.5 million focuses on lighting and security camera improvements in and around the Athens campus. The UGA Police Department (UGAPD) and the Athens-Clarke County Police Department partnered together to invest in camera and lighting initiatives in downtown Athens. In November 2021, UGA provided $250,000 directly to Athens-Clarke County to help address lighting and security camera improvements in the downtown business district and poorly lit pathways to and from campus. An agreement was finalized with ACC in September 2022, and UGA soon made another $100,000 available to ACC for this purpose.
“The UGA and ACC police departments have a long history of working together closely to facilitate our overlapping missions,” said UGA Police Chief Dan Silk.
The new downtown cameras and supporting infrastructure are currently in the design phase, and the first installation of new cameras is expected in the coming months. Additionally, since November 2021, more than $2.6 million is currently in process to add to the on-campus security camera infrastructure, and nearly 500 exterior camera views will be available by the end of the year.
“I know our collaborative focus with Athens on security technology will have a measurable impact on our joint efforts to keep our communities safe,” Silk said. “We have already seen that emphasis provide vital evidence in important cases for both agencies, and it contributed key evidence that resulted in a recent conviction for a serious assault that occurred last fall.”
In addition to the $8.5 million commitment and to place an even greater senior leadership focus on safety, UGA has created an Associate Vice President for Public Safety (AVPPS) position. Silk has agreed to serve in this role effective March 1, and he will continue to serve as Police Chief until a national search for the next chief is completed. In this new role, Silk will work closely with UGA’s Police Chief and Director of Emergency Preparedness to advise and oversee the University’s strategic campus public safety opportunities and potential courses of action.
The AVPPS will fulfill a variety of management responsibilities to support UGA’s academic and student life missions. Silk will continue to support the Police Department’s community policing initiatives, advancing the leadership role the UGAPD and Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP) play as they continue to collaborate to meet our community’s broad spectrum of health, safety and security‐related needs. By harnessing research and data from UGA and other sources, Silk will also consider state and national trends regarding safety and wellness in higher education to inform UGA’s continuing efforts to build and sustain a safe learning and working environment.
While day-to-day operations of the UGAPD and OEP will continue to report to and be supported by the Vice President of Finance & Administration, the AVPPS will oversee, direct and support the planning, communication, community engagement, evidence-based best practices, and training efforts of UGAPD and OEP.
“Creation of this new leadership position will place a greater and more strategic focus on efforts that are critically important to our students and the entire campus and greater Athens communities,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “I am confident that Dan Silk’s proven and innovative leadership will drive our collective public safety efforts forward in very meaningful and measurable ways.”