As the Los Angeles Police Department adds more officers to the USC area, the number of citations for traffic and biking infractions among students has increased. This greater presence around campus comes from a request from the university to further ensure student safety, according to the LAPD.
LAPD officers have replaced the Dept. of Public Safety at some intersections, and are now positioned on the perimeter of campus to monitor students when crossing the streets in the area.
DPS officers now monitor the new bike lanes within the University Park campus. Though DPS focuses mostly on warning riders to follow the rules, LAPD uses citations to help change rider and pedestrian behavior.
LAPD officers are focused on specific violations to make the university safer for students.
“They’re really basic laws,” said Nichol Gardner, the Southwest Division senior lead officer of the LAPD. “I tell my officers to stress to students that they should be safe while riding their bikes and crossing the streets. That means riding with the flow of traffic, not being on your cell phone and not crossing when the red hand is flashing.”
Despite the additional efforts to reduce traffic violations, some students believe tighter enforcement will not change student behavior for the right reasons.
Jackie Drobny, a junior majoring in communication, received a citation that came with a $197 fine last month for not crossing the street at an intersection.
“I don’t think giving kids citations is the way to solve problems,” Drobny said. “Now I’ve stopped jaywalking out of fear that I will have to pay $200 again, but not because I was unsafe and I’m now being safer.”
Traffic accidents and violations on campus often result from these kinds of infractions, according to DPS. Many students acknowledged the problem with traffic and biking violations on campus, but said they believe that the LAPD can solve them with more effective methods.
“I think [safety] is a legitimate concern, but I think LAPD is too overzealous about it,” Terrence Liu, a junior majoring in biochemistry, said. “I understand why LAPD would enforce these laws, but students shouldn’t have to pay for violations.”
Other students said they do not believe that LAPD is targeting the correct problem.
“I’m from Philadelphia and no police officer would ever give you a ticket for jaywalking, because there’s just bigger issues,” Drobny said. “The streets should be more walker- and biker-friendly.”
Some students feel that they are at a disadvantage because they are not aware of California traffic infractions.
“I think it would be better if they informed us about the laws,” said Soumya Murag, a junior majoring in biomedical engineering. “Because now I’m just finding new paths around campus, away from the officers, to ride my bike.”
Despite student opposition to being penalized, DPS Capt. David Carlisle says that the department could start curbing biking problems on campus by using citations.
“DPS has not written any citations yet,” Carlisle said. “We focus on the roadways in campus where most of the foot traffic is. DPS may, in the future, start enforcing them soon for failure for following the bike lanes, though.”
Some also expressed concern that LAPD is specifically targeting university students because of their inability to fight the citations in court.
“They know that students are not going to fight [citations], along with the fact that they are not there every day enforcing it shows me that they’re making a lot of money off of it, which just seems wrong,” Drobny said.
LAPD, however, maintained that its primary job is to encourage more street safety among USC students.
“We just want students to act smart when they’re on the street,” Gardner said. “They just need to make sure that they’re aware of everyone’s safety when on bikes and walking.”