In the wake of the killings of two graduate students in April, the Department of Public Safety will increase its presence on campus and emphasize student awareness.
Viterbi School of Engineering students Ying Wu and Ming Qu, both 23 years old and from China, were found shot dead in a car on Raymond Avenue near the intersection of 27th Street.
Thirty Los Angeles Police Department officers have been added to the University Park area in collaboration with DPS. The number of officers on foot, biking and in plainclothes surveillance details will also increase, according to DPS Assistant Chief John Thomas.
“[USC] has undertaken an aggressive education campaign to inform students of the risks of leaving property unattended, dorm rooms unlocked, property exposed within vehicles, walking alone at night and over-consuming alcoholic beverages,” DPS Captain Steve Alegre said.
Though many see the additional police presence as a big step for safety, Alegre said student awareness of personal safety is currently the most important factor. DPS has always urged students to be aware of their surroundings, but the school has enacted further measures in light of the April murders.
According to Sgt. Jamie Bennett of the LAPD, one of the biggest improvements students will notice in the fall is the presence of officers on campus.
“LAPD is going to be on campus; we are there to make you safer,” Bennett said. “My hope is that it is a deterrent to criminals to have us on campus.”
Campus Cruiser has also increased the number of drivers for the fall semester.
According to DPS Captain David Carlisle, the additional police presence and safety awareness project is part of a continuing campaign to help the university become the safest campus in America.
“While eliminating all crime may be unrealistic, it will continue to be our primary goal,” Carlisle said. “Until we accomplish our goal, we will not be satisfied.”
DPS sees student awareness as the first step toward reaching this goal.
“It is always important to remember that often the key to safety … is smart decision-making by the students,” Thomas said. “Public safety is a partnership, and students can help DPS by making smart decisions that won’t increase their likelihood of becoming the victim of a crime.”
The recent crimes near campus have shocked some students into paying more attention to their surroundings.
“I never really understood how dangerous the surrounding areas of campus were until the tragic deaths of two USC students,” said Christine Doh, a senior majoring in visual anthropology. “It definitely made me more aware of my surroundings.”
Other students who already see and feel the presence of DPS on and off campus said increased DPS and police presence would be a welcome addition.
“I’ve never felt uneasy on or immediately off of campus. It feels like every couple of seconds a DPS officer is passing in a car or chariot, and for that they definitely deserve to be recognized,” said Matt Cook, a senior majoring in kinesiology. “Even in the wee hours of the morning, the yellow coats are posted up at every corner guiding me home.”