Police Presence Strengthened in Normaltown in Athens, Ga.

The opening of the UGA Health Sciences Campus brings two patrols.

If Normaltown residents sense that the police presence in their neighborhood has increased in recent months, they’re right.

UGA’s Health Sciences Campus officially opened in early August when the 2012 school year began, and now almost 800 students, faculty and staff work and study there. Ninety-four students even live in old military housing on campus. More will come in the future.

Police officers from Athens-Clarke County and UGA have stepped up patrols in the vicinity of Prince and Oglethorpe avenues.

“We patrol the property and 500 yards around that property,” said Chief Jimmy Williamson of the UGA police. At the same time, Athens-Clarke County officers can come onto the campus as well the Normaltown neighborhood, for which they are responsible. Some medical students have also noted the increased police presence since they moved from the edge of the main campus to the new location.

“I’m only out on the new campus once or twice a week for a few hours, but there are definitely more police now,” said Joseph Drwiega, a third-year medical student. “Probably because it’s a larger place. I almost never saw cops at our old building, unless they were sitting around in their cars waiting to peg people for speeding. I’ve seen them walking around on the new campus, which I think is an improvement.”

UGA and Athens-Clarke County work together to make Normaltown a safe place for residents and the newly relocated faculty and staff.

“We work in unison a lot with the UGA PD these days,” said David Jordan, an ACC police officer. “There’s a good line of communication between us and them.”

Chief Williamson agreed.

“We try to be united on as many fronts as we can,” said Williamson. “We try not to duplicate resources except where we have to based on the communities we serve, so we really try to help each other out, and we think the officers work well together and so do the investigative units and senior managements.”

Despite teamwork between the two departments, crime is something that can never be eliminated.

Petty theft is the biggest issues on UGA’s main campus, Williamson said, and he believes this will be true for the new health sciences as well.

“I’m pretty confident that we’re gonna see theft issues,” Williamson said, referring to the new campus. “To what level, I don’t know yet.”

At least temporarily, Williamson believes that the smaller scale of the new campus will make it harder for thieves to lift laptops or break into cars without being noticed. The same people will see one another every day, which makes it easier to spot people or situations out of the ordinary.

Both law enforcement agencies are focused on preventing crime as well as responding to complaints from Normaltown and the Health Sciences Campus. In addition to the vigilance of individuals, environmental factors such as street and parking lot lighting helps deter crime, Officer Jordan noted.

These preventive measures are universal, of course, but the recent influx of new people and the surge in traffic makes them especially relevant to people in Normaltown, both on and off campus.



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