Athens residents have expressed their concerns about safety after recent sexual assaults reported on and off-campus.
Although it was not discussed during the Athens City Council meeting Monday, city council members are aware of the issues and discussing ways to improve safety.
Mayor Steve Patterson said he is informed that the public is concerned about safety and believes discussions about rape culture are on the rise.
“People feel more empowered to report and it’s a good thing,” Patterson said.
Patterson believes that a positive from the situation is that more victims are reporting. He said the numbers of reports are similar to those of years past.
Patterson is a member of two organizations that discuss issues of sexual assault: International Town and Gown Association, or ITGA, and the National League of Cities, or NLC. He described how ITGA communicates issues and challenges in institutions of higher education and its communities. NLC is more focused on city administration issues to help city leaders build better communities.
Chris Knisely, city council president, said council members have taken initiative to discuss concerns about student safety with Athens city workers, including the idea of implementing foot patrols.
Kinsely spoke of an event called OpenOHIO, a open discussion hosted by the university on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons in Baker Center that gives students the ability to talk in small groups about issues on campus.
Kent Butler, D-1st Ward, said he had been confronted by residents about sexual assault and safety concerns in previous years. Notably, residents expressed concerns about the lighting in the city.
“(The discussion) is cyclical,” Butler said. “The city had a bus ride around the city to look for places that could be improved for the safety of all citizens.”
Judith Roman, an Athens resident, said she has been coming to city council meetings since May.
Roman said she would like to see changes in the parking garage, such as cameras, lighting and a police officer stationed at the entrance.
“I want to feel safe when I’m parking and not have to worry about my safety when I turn the corner,” Roman said.