UGA campus murder: Officials face mounting pressure amid campus safety concerns

Laken Riley’s murder has some University of Georgia students and parents pushing UGA and Athens-Clarke County leaders to invest more in safety measures. 

A UGA student started a petition to get blue light emergency call boxes installed on the campus. As of Monday night, it had more than 25,000 signatures.

The University of Georgia Police Department states on its website that the university used to have call boxes but has determined they are no longer necessary.

In a recent statement online, the university said it has invested $16 million "over the last eight years to hire more police personnel, design and install an extensive security camera network, enhance lighting, establish a nightly rideshare program, and create a widely used UGA Safe app."

UGA community concerned about campus security

Students lay tributes to two fallen students at the UGA Arch on Feb. 26, 2024.

Students lay tributes to two fallen students at the UGA Arch on Feb. 26, 2024.

The UGA student who started the petition isn't the only one calling for more safety in Athens.

"The death of Laken Riley has completely devastated me...this could have been my son, this could have been the daughter of my friends," said Laurie Camp. 

She has a son at UGA around Riley's age and says her murder is just the latest violent crime in a hometown that she feels is getting more dangerous.

"I want our mayor and commissioner to quit putting their political agendas in front of the safety of our citizens and students in Athens-Clarke County," Camp said. 

She's referring to the fact that some lawmakers and residents like her have called Athens a "sanctuary city" for illegal immigrants.



Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz explained in an email response to FOX 5 that the city is not a "sanctuary city" because they comply with Georgia law that prohibits them.

He says they provide documentation to the state every year to show they’re in compliance with the law. 

Is Athens safe?

Giovanna McDavid, another Athens parent, says the city’s safety problems are not just about immigration.

"I would have never thought that my son would be a victim to gun violence," McDavid said. 

JaiVanni McDavid

JaiVanni McDavid (Supplied)

Her 24-year-old son, JaiVanni McDavid, died in a shooting near UGA’s campus in March of last year. One of those arrested was a teenager. She feels Athens-Clarke County isn't investing as much in its youth.

"Clarke County has cut a lot of the funding for them to have things to do. So, now kids don't have anything to do," McDavid said. 

Camp plans to hold a rally at the next Athens-Clarke County Commission meeting on March 5 to call on leaders to make more safety investments. 

Athens leaders to respond to safety concerns

FOX 5 reached out to ACC leaders about their concerns. 

Mayor Girtz said he plans to hold a news conference later this week to respond to these concerns and announce more investments in public safety.