close ‘It’s terrifying’ students' safety concerns on campus go ‘largely ignored’: UGA student’s mom Video

‘It’s terrifying’ students’ safety concerns on campus go ‘largely ignored’: UGA student’s mom

University of Georgia student’s mother, Veronica Bennett, tells ‘America Reports’ after a nursing student’s death there are not enough safety measures in place at the school.

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University of Georgia students are demanding more on-campus safety features, such as blue light emergency phones, which the school said it would prioritize following the Feb. 22 murder of Augusta University nursing student Laken Riley.

UGA Police Chief Jeffrey Clark described the attack against Riley as a “crime of opportunity” while announcing the Feb. 23 arrest of Jose Ibarra, a 26-year-old illegal immigrant from Venezuela accused of killing Riley, 22, while she was out for a jog along dirt trails on UGA’s campus.

“As a female student at the University of Georgia, I am deeply heartbroken and alarmed by the recent murder that occurred on our campus,” an unnamed UGA student wrote in the description of a petition, “Install Emergency Blue Lights on University of Georgia’s Campus.”

This tragic event happened in a park where many women, including myself, used to feel safe. … Lake Herrick is owned by UGA, a place we trusted.”


A photo of the UGA crime scene below photos of Laken Riley and suspect Jose Ibarra

University of Georgia murder suspect Jose Ibarra lived within a five-minute walk of the approximate location where he allegedly murdered 22-year-old nursing student Laken Riley Feb. 22. (Mark Sims for Fox News Digital/Laken Riley/Jose Ibarra)

Riley went for a morning run on trails that surround Lake Herrick, located on the southernmost point of UGA’s campus. Various apartment complexes and railroad tracks border the approximate location where Ibarra allegedly attacked and killed the nursing student. Ibarra lived in one of those apartment buildings, located within a five-minute walk of the crime scene, Fox News Digital previously reported.

The suspect’s status as an illegal immigrant angered Georgia residents, who interrupted Athens Mayor Kelly Girtz Wednesday during a news briefing to discuss public safety in the community. Protesters heckled as he tried to dismiss “the notion of a sanctuary city.”


On UGA’s campus, there has also been a push for more security, with the student petition adding that the “lack of emergency blue lights has been an ongoing issue that can no longer be ignored,” citing a 2019 Grady News Source article stating that the UGA campus did not have any blue lights.

A university spokesperson said at the time that while UGA was one of the first college campuses to have emergency blue lights, “data show that these call boxes had become obsolete,” with zero emergency calls made through the boxes over an eight-year period.


UGA murder suspect lived within a five-minute walk of crime scene Video

“These lights can instantly contact the police and make them aware of a dangerous situation. They can also deter crimes,” the student-led petition says. “According to the National Institute of Justice, improved street lighting led to a crime reduction in about half of the areas studied (Farrington & Welsh, 2002). By implementing enhanced lighting systems across campus and installing blue lights for emergency calls, we can significantly improve safety conditions for all students.”

UGA on Tuesday announced new security measures totaling more than $7.3 million to make its campus safer, including “the installation of combined security camera-blue light call box systems in strategic locations across campus,” the university said.


“Blue light call boxes combined with cameras are being added to select sites throughout campus. Based on existing research, basic call boxes alone do not inherently contribute to a safer environment; therefore, the new call box systems installed on campus will utilize new multi-functional capabilities that also incorporate security cameras and additional lighting.

“They will be located strategically in areas identified as ideal for camera coverage and enhanced lighting. In addition, new perimeter fencing will be erected in several areas, and new signage will be mounted to convey the fact that the entire campus is protected by robust security camera coverage.” 

A photo of an emergency blue light near a sidewalk

Laken Riley’s murder on UGA’s campus has prompted a call for emergency blue lights on campus. (Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun)

The university also touted Mobile Bluelight, a feature of the UGA Safe app that calls UGA Police and shares the user’s location in real time; a Friend Walk feature displaying a student’s location to selected friends; and a Chat with Police feature that allows students to immediately report concerns to UGA Police. Students’ parents can also sign up for the app.

The Lake Forest Group founder and CEO Michael Verden, a former Secret Service agent and director of security for the NBA, told Fox News Digital he is an “advocate” for blue light emergency phones. 


The phones, he said, are typically installed in strategic areas, including dark areas on a school or hospital campus or in parking lots and pedestrian walkways. They are typically small towers that have lights on top of them and phones accessible for anyone’s use, but they can also be installed on the side of buildings or on existing light posts. Some even have cameras that start recording when a call is made.

The blue lights require an immediate connection to some kind of 24/7 responder staffing, whether that be a college public safety department or a local police department. Calls made from specific phones can alert a responder to the location of a caller, Verden explained.

A general view of the area where Laken Riley’s body was found near Lake Herrick on the University of Georgia’s campus in Athens, Georgia

The area where Laken Riley’s body was found near Lake Herrick on the University of Georgia campus in Athens, Ga., Feb. 24, 2024.  (Mark Sims for Fox News Digital)

“I think they’re effective,” Verden said. “They are a communications channel, and that, to me, is important. They’re also what you would call a visual deterrent. These bad guys aren’t stupid. A bad guy sees a phone … brightly lit, blue light on top, a phone attached to it — they’re going to think twice. They’re going to think twice about committing a crime where the phone is located.”

But the security consultant also noted that blue lights involve a lot of moving parts and manpower.

“I think the emergency phones are critically important to the safety and security of campuses.”

— Michael Verden, CEO of The Lake Forest Group

“I think the emergency phones are critically important to the safety and security of campuses. … But that, by itself, is not enough. Just having an emergency phone is not enough. It has to be a layered approach to security. Are there people available to answer the call? Are there people available to respond to the call?” Verden said, adding that, in some big cities, people calling 911 may be placed on hold.

Laken Riley smiles for a photo while running

Laken Riley smiles for a photo while running. Riley, a nursing student in Georgia, was found dead near a lake on campus Feb. 22, 2024. (Laken Riley/Instagram)

A community member named Marlene Clark expressed similar concerns about safety measures on UGA’s campus in an email to UGA President Jere Morehead with Fox News Digital copied.

“Why are there no police patrolling the campus on foot, on horseback or on trolleys? Why are there not secure transportation/escorts to move students from classrooms to parking lots, especially during testing when exams are scheduled at NIGHTS?” Clark wrote. 

“Why are so many of the streets so dark? THIS IS A COLLEGE TOWN! Why are there so many unattended empty lots and vacant buildings on or close to campus? My daughter’s parking requires her to walk past a run down garage with questionable activities.


“Those who knew Laken are suffering and scared, the parents of children who had to go back today are suffering along with them and scared.”

Audrey Conklin is a digital reporter for Fox News Digital and FOX Business. Email tips to [email protected] or on Twitter at @audpants.

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