Officers keep an eye on the neighborhood
Posted December 3, 2009 at 12:36 am in News
Most of them are not law enforcement experts â and most donât ever want to be. Some want to be rappers; others run their own businesses.
But after a year riddled with high-profile crimes, these yellow-jacketed observers were brought to campus to help create a safer atmosphere, and, according to campus safety officials, they have.
The security officers of the Contemporary Services Corporation were hired at the beginning of this semester to provide a visible security presence around campus. Wearing their distinctive yellow jackets, the officers monitor street corners on and near campus until 4 a.m. each day.
The CSC officers are unarmed, but Department of Public Safety Capt. David Carlisle said their presence alone discourages criminal activity.
âCriminals recognize them as security and most criminals want to avoid conflict when they commit crimes so they will go elsewhere,â Carlisle said.
Roy Sukimoto, CSCâs Los Angeles branch manager, agrees.
âThe area around USCâs campus does offer a few more challenges regarding safety,â he said. âHaving our people visible and proactive acts as a deterrent for crime.â
The officers are certainly visible in their brightly colored jackets. They are there, Sukimoto said, to serve as a resource for students, and also to report any crimes they might see.
âWe donât want to be watchdogs of the students, we want to be there to make their lives easier,â Sukimoto said. âWe know students have enough to do without worrying about whatâs around the corner, so we try to give peace of mind.â
Since the CSC officers came to campus, the number of reported crimes has actually gone up. But Carlisle said this is likely because more crimes are being observed, and does not necessarily mean more crimes are being committed.
âWhen you add 20 additional sets of eyes and ears whose duty it is to observe and report, you expect the number of reports to increase,â Carlisle said.
Even though most are not fully trained law enforcement officials, Sukimoto said the CSC officersâ ability to notice crimes in the making is often enhanced by their knowledge of the neighborhood. They report anything they see to DPS.
âThey understand the type of people theyâre looking for. Theyâre streetwise and theyâre more seasoned than the average student or faculty member,â he said.
Sukimoto noted that several of the CSC officers stationed around campus come from nearby neighborhoods.
One of those officers, who is stationed near 32nd and Figueroa streets and declined to give her name because of company policies, said she isnât worried about being unarmed because living in Compton has taught her what to look out for.
âI know about the area. It looks and seems bad but itâs not like people are walking up and pulling guns out everyday,â she said. âIâve seen worse, so Iâm not scared.â
The officer said that in her time at USC sheâs called in several bike thefts and is constantly watching for suspicious activity. When things are quiet, however, she finds ways to keep busy.
âIâm always thinking about my master plan and the homeless guys keep me company during a lot of the day,â she said.
Some students said the CSC officers made them feel safer, but they questioned their ability to stop crime.
âI feel safer having them around, but I would like them to have some sort of weapon in case they need it,â said Ana-Claudia Magana, a junior majoring in creative writing and psychology.
Others said just the presence of the CSC officers was enough to add to the areaâs security. Michelle Black, a junior majoring in violin performance, said the CSC officers offer an appropriate balance of security and privacy.
âTheyâre friendly and make me feel safe when Iâm walking home at night,â Black said.
Some students also said they hope the CSC presence will increase.
âIt has made an impact on 28th Street and the Row, but I do not feel safe because I live on the 26th [Street],â said LC Lim, a senior majoring in psychology and communication. âThere should be at least two or three officers on the west side [of campus].â
Sukimoto said that while there are currently no plans to expand CSCâs range to the west side of campus, it is something they might look into for the future.
âBeing in our first year of operation, DPS wanted to see that what weâre doing works,â Sukimoto said.
Currently, resources are allocated to parts of campus where the majority of students are located, Carlisle said, but there is potential for expansion.
âThereâs no end date on using their services, so itâll continue for the foreseeable future,â he said.