Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck said he believes one of the best ways to prevent crime is to join forces, and on Thursday night he will give students and community members a chance to do just that.
As part of USC’s Community Conversation Series, Beck will participate in a panel discussion with representatives from USC’s Department of Public Safety, the Undergraduate Student Government and the Neighborhood Council, among others.
“Collaborative efforts between the various stakeholders in public safety make the biggest difference,” Beck said.
Crime in the USC area has not been particularly problematic since Beck took the helm of LAPD in November. Still, Beck said, even if crime isn’t making headlines, it is still an important issue.
“Even if crime’s down, it doesn’t matter if you’re the victim,” Beck said.
The panel will hear student and community concerns and help find solutions. Beck said he thinks it is an important discussion for students to attend, even though crime is down right now.
“I think people can feel a little bit better about where they’re going to school, but I don’t think that changes the fact that they have to be aware of the area,” Beck said.
The event aims to bring community members, students and law enforcement officials together to discuss safety and crime concerns.
“The main thing is we want folks to work together, so it’s not groups pitted against each other,” said David Roberts, USC’s associate director for local government relations.
The event, put on by USC’s Office of Government and Community Relations, will begin with an address by Beck and will continue with a panel discussion. The panel will also feature Jan DeAndrade, neighborhood prosecutor for the city attorney’s office; DPS Chief Carey Drayton; Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Denzil Suite; North Area Neighborhood Development Council President Shawn Simons; and Helen Moser, director of Campus Affairs for the Undergraduate Student Government.
Panelists said they expect the prime concerns among community members to be late-night parties and noise issues; they expect students will be concerned about safety after dark, property crimes and bike safety.
All of these issues, panelists said, can be fixed by instilling a sense of shared responsibility.
“Safety is about community,” Simons said. “If the students aren’t considerate of the community and knowing that there are people who have children and go to school and go to work and work night shifts and day shifts, then it doesn’t bode well for a tight community.”
Beck said it is critical that students keep in mind the nature of the community both to create a more cooperative environment and a safer environment.
“Many students come from very, very far away or very, very different cultures from what South Los Angeles has to offer,” Beck said. “I think a lot of it is understanding the variables that come from where you live.”
Simons noted that the key is for the community to work with the university and students not to impose rules or regulations that will intimidate students.
“We have to be careful not to overstep the bounds to make people feel afraid,” she said. “That’s alienating and that sets up walls and makes things more difficult.”
Collaboration and understanding, Beck said, could also help solve bike safety issues.
Bike safety has been a hot-button topic in all of Los Angeles lately because of a growing demand for protection of bikers’ rights. Beck said it is important, especially given the large number of bicyclists around USC, for bikers and drivers to be attuned to the dangers of the road.
“A lot of it is being aware of your vulnerability when you’re using a bike to commute,” Beck said. “On the other side of it, it is for the students that drive or anybody else that drives in the ’SC area to have an awareness of bicycles. People forget just how vulnerable bicyclists are.”
Beyond bike safety, Moser said students are also concerned about the extent of DPS’ boundaries and hopes to discuss this issue at the forum.
“Some students have expressed concern that boundaries don’t include west of campus, and those boundaries are set by LAPD,” Moser said.
She said she is excited for the chance to discuss this and other issues with all these groups together.
“This is a rare opportunity where we’re going to get both LAPD and DPS in the same room,” Moser said.
The panel discussion will be held at 5:30 p.m. in the Founder’s Room at the Galen Center. Roberts is hoping to see a good cross section of students and community members.
“It is the university’s interest not only to have the environment safe for our students, faculty and staff but we want to see the kids going to school, the residents and the businesses in a safer environment,” Roberts said.