Students living on W. 28th St, better known as The Row, will find extra company on certain days this semester in the form of Los Angeles Police Department officers.
According to USC Interfraternity Council Vice President of Judicial Affairs Carlos Portela, the IFC, working in conjunction with LAPD and the Dept. of Public Safety, have been in talks since the spring 2013 semester about ways to reduce crime on The Row.
The changes in policy enforcement, which Portela said were brought about due to “LAPD wanting to step up their efforts in this area,” will concern the health and safety of students on The Row.
Portela estimated that roughly 10 officers were on The Row on Thursday, Sept. 12, and that the number would remain relatively consistent for future nights when fraternities host parties on The Row.
“Regulations are still the same except that IFC is working with DPS and LAPD to communicate better,” he said. “On a night where there are events, IFC and DPS officers are constantly communicating.”
The inclusion of LAPD officers on The Row marks a change from previous years, when LAPD largely left regulation of the area to DPS officers.
“LAPD will not give the students the benefit of the doubt,” Portela said, noting that DPS officers are “hoping more to educate students” than to use strictly punitive measures.
LAPD did not respond to requests for comment.
DPS officers will continue to have a presence on The Row in addition to the LAPD police force, which will be present during particularly high-risk nights. The two departments will meet at least once a week to discuss security.
“Some students do not respect DPS,” Panhellenic Council Vice President of Judicial Affairs Teddy Leatherman said. “I think sometimes there needs to be a little extra reinforcement, but I don’t think it’s necessary for them to be there at all times.”
The LAPD officers will have jurisdiction to issue citations to those caught violating the law, including those drinking in public or carrying open containers of alcohol.
“Without some type of enforcement, you rarely get compliance,” DPS Deputy Chief David Carlisle said. “We want to maintain order on The Row and keep it civil so that everyone can have fun on The Row without the binge drinking that we have seen in previous years.”
Carlisle said that students have been told in the past how to “socialize within the law” in the form of fliers handed out on the street.
All sorority houses within jurisdiction of Panhellenic Council are dry, so the new LAPD presence will primarily affect fraternity houses. According to Leatherman, Panhellenic Council is throwing full support behind the IFC in its cooperation with authorities.
Increased police presence might also have an impact on Greek tailgating events. Portela said that though drinking on public property has never been technically allowed, its prohibition will be more strictly enforced.
“In the coming weeks, we will see much more enforcement on that end,” he said. “So, some houses will have to tailgate indoors.”
Despite LAPD presence, the decision to break up parties and general student security will continue to fall primarily within DPS’s jurisdiction.
“LAPD has not broken down any parties on The Row this year,” Portela said. “It’s DPS’s role before LAPD on that end.”
Both Portela and Leatherman confirmed that neither IFC nor Panhellenic Council requested LAPD presence.
“They came on their own,” Leatherman said. “They want to be on The Row, and they have the right to be there.”
In addition to the officers, two paramedics will be stationed on The Row, and water bottles will be handed out to “avoid incidents with people drinking too much,” Portela said.
The changes were not brought on by any particular incident, but rather by an increased focus on decreasing emergency medical calls to The Row, Portela said.
It remains uncertain whether additional procedural changes will occur over time. Leatherman said that some of the policies are not yet finalized.
“There will only be changes necessary if we don’t see a change in attitudes and education,” Portela said. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean things will get worse.”
It remains to be seen what effect these changes will have on social events on the street, but Leatherman said that Greek life is about more than partying.
“It’s going to remain a fun, social place and it will give back to the community,” she said. “I think The Row can remain the same.”
Students had strong opinions about LAPD’s new involvement.
“It’s unnecessary for the LAPD to be on The Row,” said Abiola Oseni, a sophomore majoring in business administration. “I feel like they can do better things with the tax payers’ money. We already have DPS officers on The Row, and I don’t feel unsafe on The Row now, so I don’t feel like they need to have an increased presence there.”
Others said that stricter monitoring would only force secretive drinking, which could be even worse.
“It’s going to do more harm than good,” said a sophomore majoring in biology who wished to remain anonymous said. “People are just going to pre-game, and when you pre-game super hard, you have no idea how the alcohol is going to affect you.”
Some students, however, defended the new presence of LAPD officers.
“There is kind of a problem in terms of the amount of drinking and the problems that come with how much goes on The Row,” a sophomore majoring in economics who wished to remain anonymous said. “This might help it get down to a level that’s more acceptable.”
One graduate student who did not want to be named said she had attended USC for her undergraduate studies and recalled that this reflects a larger trend in Row security.
She said that when she arrived at USC in 2009, it was “absolutely hectic” on The Row, with students partying in the streets. But as time passed, she said, DPS ramped up its role, causing many older students to avoid The Row. She said that she believes changes such as greater enforcement will cause a change in the school’s image — for better or worse.
“This changes the whole dynamic of USC,” she said. “Sometimes it feels like they’re more out to get us than help us.”
Follow Julian on Twitter @JCDJulian