Most of them are not law enforcement experts — and most don’t 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.
“Criminals recognize them as security and most criminals want to avoid conflict when they commit crimes so they will go elsewhere,” Carlisle said.
Roy Sukimoto, CSC’s Los Angeles branch manager, agrees.
“The area around USC’s campus does offer a few more challenges regarding safety,” he said. “Having our people visible and proactive acts as a deterrent for crime.”
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.
“We don’t want to be watchdogs of the students, we want to be there to make their lives easier,” Sukimoto said. “We know students have enough to do without worrying about what’s around the corner, so we try to give peace of mind.”
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.
“When 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,” Carlisle said.
Even though most are not fully trained law enforcement officials, Sukimoto said the CSC officers’ ability to notice crimes in the making is often enhanced by their knowledge of the neighborhood. They report anything they see to DPS.
“They understand the type of people they’re looking for. They’re streetwise and they’re more seasoned than the average student or faculty member,” 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 isn’t worried about being unarmed because living in Compton has taught her what to look out for.
“I know about the area. It looks and seems bad but it’s not like people are walking up and pulling guns out everyday,” she said. “I’ve seen worse, so I’m not scared.”
The officer said that in her time at USC she’s called in several bike thefts and is constantly watching for suspicious activity. When things are quiet, however, she finds ways to keep busy.
“I’m always thinking about my master plan and the homeless guys keep me company during a lot of the day,” she said.
Some students said the CSC officers made them feel safer, but they questioned their ability to stop crime.
“I feel safer having them around, but I would like them to have some sort of weapon in case they need it,” 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 area’s security. Michelle Black, a junior majoring in violin performance, said the CSC officers offer an appropriate balance of security and privacy.
“They’re friendly and make me feel safe when I’m walking home at night,” Black said.
Some students also said they hope the CSC presence will increase.
“It has made an impact on 28th Street and the Row, but I do not feel safe because I live on the 26th [Street],” said LC Lim, a senior majoring in psychology and communication. “There should be at least two or three officers on the west side [of campus].”
Sukimoto said that while there are currently no plans to expand CSC’s range to the west side of campus, it is something they might look into for the future.
“Being in our first year of operation, DPS wanted to see that what we’re doing works,” 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.
“There’s no end date on using their services, so it’ll continue for the foreseeable future,” he said.