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Public Safety expanding personnel and initiatives

Public Safety - Bike
Officer Ryan Scott greets students during his bike patrol on the University of North Georgia's Dahlonega Campus.

The Department of Public Safety at the University of North Georgia (UNG) is refining the department's efforts in emergency preparedness training to continue in its mission to proactively educate and protect university personnel and community members.

The department will soon fill a position for coordinator of emergency preparedness, a role that will spearhead department initiatives focusing on the development of programming and training for UNG students, faculty and staff.

"We are also creating and posting Severe Weather Shelter Location signs in each building, posting building evacuation routes for each classroom and assembly area, and also working on bolstering our emergency notification system," said Chief Justin Gaines, director of public safety. "We have many great plans for our emergency preparedness program, and they will take time to implement."

Keeping the campus community prepared includes updating everyone on changes to the law, and two recent changes on the state level could affect students, faculty and staff.

Updates have been made to weapons laws, which also could affect visitors to UNG campuses. It is still illegal to carry a firearm on campus, but the punishment has changed. Those carrying a firearm with a permit will be charged with a misdemeanor; carrying a firearm without a permit will be treated as a felony. Weapons are permitted in vehicles if the owner is at least 21 years old and has a permit.

A new state law prevents campus police from charging for illegal use of drugs or underage possession of alcohol if they are called for a medical response to a patient overdosing on drugs or alcohol. The caller and the patient will be provided amnesty when the caller contacts authorities "in good faith" to try and save the patient's life.

Also new is a bike patrol initiative launched by the Department of Public Safety to promote more interaction between officers and the UNG community.

"Bike patrol officers will be doing building and parking lot checks to help keep tabs on what is happening around campus — they will be required to do at least three an hour. The bike patrol helps to also make our officers visible," Gaines said. "The patrol car is a great method of patrolling quickly and safely, but it isn't as personable. We are changing the culture of campus law enforcement, and in doing so, I believe that we can help to bolster the trust and partnership of our university community."

Public Safety also hired three new officers to fill existing positions this semester. Officers Blake Denna and Jayson Yarbrough will be primarily patrolling the Gainesville Campus. Both have bachelor's degrees in criminal justice — Yarbrough graduated from UNG in 2004 and was a cadet, and Denna graduated from Georgia College & State University in 2010. Officer Jarrett Miller will patrol the Dahlonega Campus, and earned a bachelor's degree in political science from UNG in 2012.

Criminal Justice students wondering what it would be like to work in Public Safety can take advantage of the department's internship program.

"The internship program is fantastic; it helps us to partner with criminal justice and train our future leaders," Gaines said. "The criminal justice program requires an internship, and I am proud to have the opportunity to be a part of teaching our students the aspects of law enforcement. We have a great student body and I am continually impressed with the students who come to learn by interning with us."

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