Annual DPS report shows drop in crime

A little more than a year ago, the USC campus was left stunned after the stabbing death of one of its own students — the first incident in a string of high-profile crimes that plagued the school last year.

But despite that incident and a number of other crimes that grabbed the attention of students, parents and the national media, the Department of Public Safety’s annual crime report — released today — indicates an overall drop in crime on and around campus.

According to the new crime report, USC experienced a drop in robberies, which are down 51 percent, aggravated assault, down 13 percent and motor vehicle thefts, down 14 percent. In contrast, the school saw a rise in forcible sex offenses, up 300 percent, and burglaries, up 21 percent.

DPS Capt. David Carlisle said the high-profile crimes that received the most attention last year, including a shooting and a stabbing, were exceptions.

“Of course these are exceptional crimes, and, justifiably, received a lot of media attention,” Carlisle said. “However, while these headlines led to the public perception that crime was on the rise around USC, in fact the opposite is true. Crime has been on the decline for the last few years and that trend is continuing.”

According to the new statistics from DPS, USC saw the most significant decrease in robberies, which fell from 39 in 2007 to 19 to 2008. Aggravated assaults fell from 16 to 14, motor vehicle theft from 36 to 31 and arson from three to zero.

Some types of crime, however, increased in 2008.

Burglaries rose from 71 to 86 and forcible sex offenses rose from three to 12.

The statistics were released today as part of a yearly DPS crime report that follows the guidelines of the Clery Act, which requires universities to give timely crime alerts and issue crime statistics annually. According to Carlisle, the Clery Act also determines the parameters of the school, so the extent of crime in that area can be reported and compared in a consistent manner among universities around the country.

Those parameters, however, result in the exclusion of some crimes from the report. This year, the predetermined boundaries meant two of the most highly publicized crimes were left off.

Though cinema student Bryan Frost was fatally stabbed in September, no murders were reported on the 2008 report.

According to Carlisle, this was because the incident occurred on Orchard Avenue, which is outside the boundaries defined by the Clery Act.

“There were two highly publicized crimes last year, the stabbing death of a USC student and the shooting in the legs of a USC track athlete,” Carlisle said. “The location where Bryan Frost was murdered was not within Clery boundaries, so while we recognize the fact that a USC student was murdered, it is not included in these campus crimes.”

Even though the Clery Report leaves out some areas near campus, DPS is confident crime numbers are down all around the school, just as crime is down in Los Angeles as a whole.

According to LAPD’s 2009 crime report, which was released Sept. 21, there has been significantly less violent crime and property crime so far in 2009 compared to the same period last year. Additionally, homicide in Los Angeles is down 23.5 percent, violent crimes have dropped 10 percent and property crimes have declined 11 percent.

Carlisle attributes the decrease in crime around USC to the crime fighting and prevention strategies USC has employed in recent years.

“The addition of new personnel to DPS as well as security ambassadors and technologies have helped the issue, particularly the deployment strategies that we’ve put into place over the past three years, which reflect those of LAPD Chief Bratton,” Carlisle said.

LAPD Officer Corri of the Southwest Division said that at least two officers are assigned to the USC area daily and that visual presence and specialized programs such as gang injunctions have assisted in the decrease of crime in the area.

“We’ve got gang injunctions in place, which puts gang members in jail and also teaches a lesson to people wanting to commit crimes, letting them know they will be arrested,” Corri said.

DPS Crime Prevention Specialist Wyman Thomas added that, apart from new personnel, DPS’s success is also a result of the use of Computer Analysis of Crime Statistics, or COMSTAT, a method for compiling crime statistics for comparison.

“We employ and continue to strategize based on trends,” Thomas said. “We review COMSTAT every week, and we look at what is taking place in the community in terms of events, or transient population, and we allocate those resources and deploy our officers in those areas.”

Some students said they have noticed the increase in crime prevention efforts by DPS.

Laura Escobar-Vallecillo, a sophomore majoring in communication, lives at the Radisson and said that the increased DPS presence on the streets around campus has made a noticeable difference.

“I feel like late at night when I’m crossing the street it’s been a lot safer this year than last year because I see a lot of DPS officers,” Escobar-Vallecillo said.

But other students said they have never thought of campus as an unsafe place.

“I never thought that crime was that bad in the first place,” said Marshall Ge, a freshman majoring in biological sciences. “Even though all my friends told me USC was really dangerous, I never felt that crime was a big deal.”