View answers to frequently asked questions about the University of Georgia Police Department below.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the UGA Police Department's Strategy for Facilitating Campus Safety?
The University of Georgia relies on a multifaceted strategy to facilitate the safety and security of our campus community, with input and assistance from a wide range of campus partners.
For more than 50 years, the University has employed a professional, full-service police department focused specifically on the UGA campus, with police officers and 911 communications personnel on duty 24-hours a day. Our officers are supported by a team of detectives and other important administrative personnel, and they communicate regularly with the Athens-Clarke County Police Department and other state and federal agencies, as well as other units within UGA, to sustain close working relationships and address public safety issues. Perhaps most importantly, the police worked closely with the public, and rely heavily on the community as a source of information and input to address emerging concerns.
It is helpful to envision our joint police-community endeavor to create a safe and secure environment as consisting of a series of concentric layers of mutually supportive efforts, harnessed to protect our students, employees, and visitors. In a physical sense, these layers consist of awareness and efforts to protect people and property in their immediate vicinity (layer one), awareness of anomalies and concerns throughout campus and at its boundaries (layer two), and our efforts to enhance levels one and two by remaining aware of events and trends beyond campus, both in Athens and across the nation (layer three). The entire UGA community must assist in this campaign, as the information shared by our community is vital to effective crime prevention and response. Indeed, the connection we have with our community provides the foundation for our overall public safety mission.
Awareness and action at each of these layers are supported by intentional human, technical, and strategic efforts to address safety and crime concerns (a helpful visual model for thinking about this can found in the “crime triangle”). For example, to address the area immediately around a person, human effort is needed via a personal focus on situational awareness of the individual, and the human connections made between the individual and others—to include friends, coworkers and police—to prompt appropriate action when a dangerous situation develops or a crime occurs.
Human efforts are supplemented by technical security enhancements, to include outdoor lighting and security cameras—an effort to which the University has dedicated nearly $3 million since 2018. The University performs periodic lighting surveys, conducted along with the Facilities Management Division and the Student Government Association, and invests in lighting improvements where needs are identified. At the same time, campus security cameras provide police with the ability to collect information and evidence about events, and can facilitate real-time answers to developing concerns when used in conjunction with a patrol response—often itself facilitated by the human connection of a phone call to police from a member of our community.
How are UGA police officers selected and trained?
The University of Georgia Police Department fully recognizes the seriousness of our responsibility to society, and we are committed to selecting the best candidates to work at our department. Our hiring process is exhaustive, and—in truth—we turn down many more applicants than we hire. We consider policing in the higher education environment to represent its own branch of our profession, and though it bears some similarities to other aspects of law enforcement, in many ways it is quite distinct. We are proud to be entrusted with the safety and security of our campus, but we also know our community rightfully has high expectations.
Our department is well known for its progressive ethos and community focus, and we embrace the opportunity to work with our partners across campus to facilitate the safest possible environment. Our officers come from diverse backgrounds and are chosen for this role from the beginning, and they themselves must exemplify our organizational principles. We are deeply committed to service, equality, courage, transparency, and compassion, and applicants to the UGA Police Department must be willing to reflect this same commitment.
Our employees are some of the best-trained police personnel in the state. Every officer attends the 408-hour state-required basic police academy. And while that training provides an important foundation, it is only an introduction to the skills and mindset needed to be successful at our department. It is followed by another month of classroom and practical exercise training, which is supplemented by a further 16-weeks of training with experienced officers in the field. In total, new UGA police officers receive more than seven months of training—or approximately three times the amount of training required by state law for new officers. Additionally, each year officers are required to attend advanced and refresher training, and on average our officers receive several times the amount of “in-service” training required by statute.
However, it is important to recognize not just the amount of training that matters, but also the topics that are delivered during that training and the spirit in which those topics are discussed. For many years the UGA Police Department has required training on a variety of topics beyond the academy that we feel are vital. Examples include an ongoing emphasis on constitutional law, de-escalation, behavioral health, addressing bias, emergency medicine, and community policing. To us, knowledge in these areas is paramount, and facilitates our ability to meet the needs of our community. The combination of thoughtful training and an organizational culture that prioritizes the inherit value in all people helps us build critical relationships to address public safety concerns. This focus has served us well in the past, and will continue as the foundation for our department in the future.
What training do UGA Police Department personnel receive in mental health and related topics?
The UGA Police Department believes in a holistic approach to supporting and assisting those in crisis and those living with a behavioral health condition (to include mental health and/or substance abuse challenges). The UGA Police model for crisis intervention focuses on empathetically meeting the needs of our community, and relies on four key pillars: 1) communication skills; 2) patience; 3) understanding; and 4) safe tactics.
UGA Police officers are educated using the nationally recognized 40-hour Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training curriculum, which has long been a cornerstone of our behavioral health crisis response efforts. The course trains officers to recognize signs and symptoms of a behavioral health crisis, offers de-escalation strategies through role playing and personal interactions with those who have lived experiences in this area, and provides local referral resources. The goal of the CIT program is to reduce the stigma associated with behavioral health conditions, improve public and officer safety, and help those living with behavioral health conditions obtain treatment rather than placement in the criminal justice system due to illness-related behaviors. The course strongly emphasizes de-escalation strategies and the development of partnerships with local treatment and support resources. The commander of the UGA Police Department patrol division is also a certified CIT coordinator. Learn more about CIT.
To offer the highest level of support to our community, the UGA Police Department has formed key partnerships with on- and off-campus behavioral health care providers to support those experiencing challenges or crises. Our on-campus partners include UGA Student Care and Outreach, UGA Counseling and Psychiatric Services, and the UGA Fontaine Center.
The UGA Police Department has taken the International Association of Chiefs of Police One Mind Pledge. The program is designed to ensure police agencies around the world have best practices, policies, and procedures in place for helping those experiencing a crisis and to ensure police officers, communications officers, and civilian staff receive adequate training related to recognizing behavioral health disorders and providing support to safely de-escalate crises. Learn more about the One Mind Campaign.
UGA police officers regularly receive refresher training on de-escalation strategies as well as ongoing continuing education on specialized behavioral health topics, including assisting those with autism spectrum disorders, medical causes of altered mental status, and access to local treatment and support resources.
What training do UGA Police Department personnel receive on de-escalation and communication skills?
De-escalation and communication skills training has gained a significant amount of important attention in the past few years for law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve throughout the United States. The University of Georgia Police Department started training on this topic 25 years ago, and de-escalation and interpersonal communication skills training remains an important area of emphasis for the University of Georgia Police Department personnel. Starting in the 1990s, our agency believed that this was such a valuable topic that we had our own departmental instructors trained in “Verbal Judo,” a training course created by Dr. George Thompson whose primary focus is treating people with dignity and respect to increase safety and enhance professionalism. This class served as the starting point for the de-escalation and communication skills training that has permeated our culture for the past quarter of a century.
In January 2017, Governor Nathan Deal instituted additional annual training requirements for law enforcement officers in the State of Georgia. One of these requirements was that all officers in Georgia must receive at least one hour of de-escalation training annually. Every year since that requirement was implemented, UGA Police officers have received an average of three hours of pure de-escalation training, in addition to additional mandated training designed to foster positive community-police relations.
This emphasis on de-escalation and communication is not only a topic for training—they are intertwined in nearly every aspect of our culture. Some of the additional topics on which we focus and train that rely heavily on these skills include fair and impartial policing, community policing, police legitimacy and procedural justice, and community relations. Similar courses are periodically taught to UGA police officers and emphasize that sound police tactics must incorporate excellent communication skills. Last year, UGA police officers averaged approximately 120 total hours of advanced training (approximately six times the amount of yearly required by Georgia law), many of which incorporated some aspect of de-escalation and communication skills.
Is the University of Georgia campus safe?
It is important to recognize that no jurisdiction—whether it’s a city or university campus—can be guaranteed to ever be completely free from crime. However, violent crimes are rare on the University of Georgia campus. One of the best ways to avoid becoming a victim of crime is to utilize personal strategies that facility safety, and realize that while it may be statistically very unlikely for any one person to be victimized, crime can happen. Making wise decisions and using common sense greatly reduce the chances of becoming a victim of crime. Using moderation when consuming alcohol, securing/locking your valuables, and being aware of your surroundings are some simple ways to greatly reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim. The UGA Police Department also conducts personal safety and crime prevention classes to help educate the campus community on maintaining a proper level of personal safety while on campus. For more information, please contact us at (706) 542-2200.
Why doesn't the University of Georgia use emergency call boxes?
In 1988 the University of Georgia became one of the first campuses in the nation to install emergency call boxes. As many as 28 call boxes were once spread across campus. At that time, emergency call boxes represented one of the best available options for people to communicate with police when in need of assistance. The call box system in place at UGA utilized analog technology. In early 2000, telephone systems began moving away from analog technology towards digital systems. In 2004, the University learned that the phone system infrastructure could no longer support analog technology used in the call boxes and that the call box system would cease to function without a costly digital upgrade.
The University considered purchasing a new digital call box system at an estimated cost of several hundred thousand dollars. Before making that financial commitment, we researched call data on the analog system call boxes. Over an eight-year span, UGA Police received only seven calls from call boxes, none of which were of an emergency nature.
Additionally, we researched cell phone usage from 1988 to 2004. In 1988, there were approximately 1.2 million cell phone users in the United States. By 2004, there were more than 182 million. The Pew Research Center notes that in 2018 100% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 own a cellphone. Using cell phones to contact public safety personnel has become the new societal norm.
With the proliferation of cell phones throughout our community, personal safety mobile phone apps have increased the potential to share information between smart phone users and public safety. The UGA Police Department and the UGA Office of Emergency Preparedness partnered in May 2017 to provide a mobile phone safety app to students, faculty, staff and visitors called UGA Safe. UGA Safe is free for members of the University community to download, and it provides a comprehensive suite of safety features and resources. The UGA Safe app can provide location sharing information during emergencies, has a virtual “safe walk” feature that allows a friend to monitor a user’s progress across campus on a map, allows for users to report information directly to UGA Police Communications via a text or call, and includes resource information on emergency plans, crime prevention tips and other safety resources. Importantly, the user can access all of these features while using a phone “on the move,” as opposed to call boxes which require a person to find a box location and stop.
UGA Police and UGA OEP promote the UGA Safe app during all of the new student orientation sessions (freshmen, transfer, graduate, international, new faculty, teaching assistants, etc.) and during other training and special events. Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, Emory University and others also utilize UGA Safe as a part of their safety programs.
Is it safe to walk on campus?
Many times, walking is the best option for transportation around campus. As stated in a previous section, violent crime can occur anywhere, but it is rare on the UGA campus. Most crime occurs after 11 PM, with the majority being in the downtown Athens and surrounding area. Lighting surveys are conducted each semester to upgrade existing infrastructure, with priority given to residential and high pedestrian traffic areas. Again, using moderation in consumption with alcohol, using well-lit, established pedestrian traffic paths, and walking in groups with people you know greatly reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim. Additionally, campus transit maintains a robust schedule to assist people in traveling around campus.
What crimes occur most often at UGA?
The majority of reported crimes at UGA involve minor theft by taking of personal property. Property left unattended and in public view is the most vulnerable. Most thefts are crimes of opportunity. Therefore, the best way to prevent becoming a victim of property crime is to secure your valuables with locks and out of public view when you are not using them.
Are residence halls at UGA safe?
The University of Georgia Police Department receives very few calls of a criminal nature in which students are the victim from the residence halls on campus. While no one can fully guarantee where crime will or will not happen, the University of Georgia has taken many steps to increase security and personal safety in the residence halls. These increased measures have influenced both the number of actual crimes and the perceptions of personal safety and security in the residence halls.
Are the parking decks at UGA safe?
Yes. UGA Parking Services stations personnel in parking decks that are most commonly used during all hours. Additionally, the University of Georgia Police Department Patrol Division routinely patrols the parking decks on campus. Even with additional security measures, crime can occur in a parking deck, just as much as anywhere else. The most commonly reported criminal activity in parking decks is entering auto (vehicle break-ins). In the last 5 years, the University of Georgia has had less than 100 entering autos every year. There are more than 18,000 parking spaces on campus, with approximately 7,000 parking deck spaces. Statistically, there is a less than .005% chance of your car getting broken into.
The vast majority of entering auto crimes take place when valuables and items that can easily be converted to cash are left in view. If you park your car in a legal space, lock your car, and secure your valuable items from view, the chances are very low that your car will be broken into.
I have heard stories about the 'date rape' drug rohypnol. Has there been any instance of its use on the University of Georgia campus?
There have been no reported cases to the University of Georgia Police Department of the use of rohypnol on campus. The most common drug used in sexual assaults reported on campus is alcohol—either by the offender, victim / survivor, or both.
Are there illegal drugs on campus?
Yes. Possession, use, or distribution of illegal drugs is a violation of state law and those caught will be arrested and prosecuted. The Police Department works proactively with other local law enforcement agencies to reduce the availability of illegal drugs in the community. Also, the giving of prescription drugs to another person to whom the drugs were not prescribed is a violation of state law that will be investigated and prosecuted.
How can I compare crime statistics of the University of Georgia with other colleges and universities?
There are several ways. Each school is required to make available annual crime statistics. Many schools’ police departments, including the University of Georgia Police department, post crime statistics on their webpage. You can access crime statistics for the University of Georgia on the Safe and Secure website.
A second way would be to go to a public library and request Uniform Crime Reports published by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Finally, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Post-Secondary Education receives crime statistics annually from colleges and universities across the nation. These statistics can be viewed at the Department of Education’s website.
If I am arrested, what will happen to me?
If you are arrested, you will be taken to the Athens-Clarke County Jail. There are no separate jail facilities for students. To get out of jail, you may be required to post bond in accordance with jail and court procedures. The bond amount is determined by the Athens-Clarke County Sheriff’s Office and is based on the crime for which you have been charged. It is also important to note that the Athens-Clarke County Jail maintains a daily arrest log that includes booking photos. The Daily Arrest Log is public record, subject to the Georgia Open Records Law, and may be viewed by anyone. Sometimes booking logs and photos are posted by local media correspondence, social media outlets, and other publications.
Are pedestrians safe on campus?
Yes! Although there have been well-publicized accidents involving pedestrians, which have occurred on campus, pedestrians are relatively safe. There are clearly marked crosswalks and pedestrian signals. However, if pedestrians disregard traffic signals, cross streets outside of crosswalks, or simply are not paying attention to what they are doing, accidents can occur.
Will my vehicle be safe on campus?
Generally vehicles are safe. However, in 2015, of the 34,000 vehicles registered on campus, there were 26 vehicles illegally entered and 5 vehicles reported stolen. Thieves target vehicles for different reasons. The vehicle itself is targeted because there is a demand for that vehicle or the property inside. The vehicle attracts the thief. Expensive stereo equipment and loose, personal property easily seen by the thief can make the vehicle more attractive. Parking the vehicle in well lighted and traveled areas may reduce the vulnerability of a particular vehicle being a target. There have been very few instances where vehicles with alarms were entered or stolen.
What are possible incidents where drivers under the age of 21 can lose their driver's license?
Conviction of a driver under the age of 21 for any of the following offenses will mean the revocation of the individual’s driver’s license for 6 months for the first offense and 12 months for the second offense:
- Eluding or attempting to elude a police officer
- Reckless driving
- Hit and run
- Leaving the scene of an accident
- Purchasing of an alcoholic beverage by a minor
- Speeding over 24 mph
- Underage possession of alcohol
Is it safe to lock my bicycle outside while on campus?
The answer to this question depends on what lengths you are willing to go in order to secure your bicycle. Too often students place cheap cable locks on very expensive bicycles. Bicycle thieves are looking for easy targets. Cheap locks or improperly secured locks are an open invitation to thieves. If you are going to bring an expensive bike to campus, spend a few extra dollars on a quality locking device and learn how to properly secure your bike with it. The few extra seconds you spend securing your bike properly will go a long way toward discouraging thieves.
What can parents do to assist their son or daughter in selecting a residence not on campus?
There are many good places to reside in the Athens area. Parents are encouraged to accompany their son or daughter during the selection process because some parents first see the rental property after a lease is signed and then question the decision. Usually college students will not ask the same probing questions parents ask, such as: What kind of windows, doors and locks are used? Are there smoke detectors? Are there outside security lights? Does the complex provide an on-site security service and is there available parking?
Before a lease is signed, you should ask if you would feel comfortable living in the residence.
Before making the final decision check with the Athens-Clarke County Police Department (706-613-3330) and Safe Campuses Now Inc. (706-354-1115) to find out the types and number of crimes committed in the area in which your son or daughter desires to live.
What advice would you give to parents who are feeling anxious about their son or daughter going off to school?
Parents should have as much contact as possible with their son or daughter while that son or daughter is away at school. With E-mail it is easier to get messages back and forth. The problem with E-mail is you cannot hear their voice. Parents know their children better than anyone else. If you hear something that does not sound right you might want to investigate further. Visit your son or daughter at times other than on special weekends, if possible, as maintaining this contact will reassure both you and your child.