Despite safety concerns among students and parents after the shooting Wednesday morning of two USC graduate students from China, administrators, students and law enforcement officials said the area near the shooting is relatively safe. All parties, however, urged students to be aware of their surroundings, especially late at night.
Ying Wu and Ming Qu, graduate students studying electrical engineering, were fatally shot around 1 a.m. The shooting took place near the intersection of Raymond Avenue and 27th Street, about three blocks west of Vermont Avenue.
Sal LaBarbera, a Los Angeles Police Department homicide detective supervisor assigned to the case, said the particular incident was an aberration in an area where crime has been decreasing.
“Crime has been on a steady decrease in the past few years,” LaBarbera said. “The shooting was definitely an isolated incident.”
LaBarbera also said the circumstances — heavy rain, the late hour of night and the hazard lights of their car — made the victims an easy target for anyone looking for trouble.
Dept. of Public Safety Capt. David Carlisle said the neighborhood is safe, based on the small number of crimes reported to DPS. Though the department receives calls related to theft, Carlisle said no violent crime has been reported in that area this year.
“This particular crime occurred in an area that doesn’t have a history of violent crime.” he said. “The majority of crimes reported to DPS, which would be from USC-related people, are thefts. We’ve had two stolen cars this year but no violent crime.”
As USC has moved from a commuter school to a predominately residential school, more students have moved to off-campus housing, including the area west of Vermont Avenue. Carlisle said with that change DPS has devoted more resources to the area west of Vermont Avenue between Exposition Boulevard and Jefferson Avenue.
“We’ve increased our public safety resources in the neighborhoods where the student population used to be lower,” Carlisle said.
DPS, however, does not officially patrol the area where the shooting occurred. Carlisle said DPS does have a few cameras in the community and it is not unusual for officers to be in the neighborhood.
USC will consult with LAPD before making any changes to its patrol boundaries, Carlisle said.
“A decision to expand our patrol boundaries would be made by senior administrators working with [DPS] Chief [Carey] Drayton,” Carlisle said. “Quite frankly, although this is a terrible single crime, it is one crime where we’ve had no other violent crimes reported in that area this year.”
Josh Durica, a junior majoring in computer science who lives in a DPS-patrolled neighborhood about a seven-minute walk away from the shooting, said he generally feels safe living west of Vermont.
“Where I live I feel pretty safe with the CSC guards and everything,” Durica said. “I walk home at least once a week at 3 a.m. by myself, and I never fear for my safety.”
Still, Durica said more can be done in light of the shooting.
“If a double homicide is happening near our campus, there are more steps that can be taken,” Durica said.
Though crime is decreasing in the area where the shooting took place, LaBarbera said the campus still remains the safest location with the most security.
Carlisle said the incident highlights the need for students to take notice when walking off campus.
“Be aware of your surroundings,” Carlisle said. “Try and follow all of the safety tips we normally talk about.”
These tips include traveling in large groups, not flaunting valuables and taking university-sponsored transportation, such as Campus Cruiser.
Mark Green, an LAPD sergeant for community relations, echoed Carlisle’s caution, saying students should always remain aware of their surroundings regardless of their location.
“People should be aware of safety issues no matter where they are,” Green said. “They should be cognizant of the areas and just know that they’re in a large metropolitan city and can be victimized.”
Faaria Kalam contributed to this report.