The Chinese Student and Scholar Association and the Department of Public Safety co-sponsored a social event at the Epstein Engineering Quad Tuesday night. The event aimed to cultivate stronger relationships between international students and DPS officers. CSSA members were encouraged to socialize and voice their concerns to DPS officers.
CSSA is a student organization mainly comprised of international Chinese students with about 200 active members, according to the organization’s president Yuefeng Zhang, a second-year graduate student studying epidemiology. Students stressed how the organization’s goal is to help international students from China.
“The purpose of CSSA is to serve all the Chinese students, not only [from an] academic perspective, but from [a] living perspective,” said Sihang Li, a member of CSSA and a sophomore majoring in accounting.
The event is part of a recent DPS initiative in which officers have made efforts to reach out and strengthen relationships with USC students. Earlier this semester, a similar event was held with the Association of Indian Students. During the event, members of DPS explained the mentality behind law enforcement.
“It’s the direction that law enforcement and public safety is going, transitioning from a mentality that once was a warrior mentality to a guardian mentality, where we seek to be partners with the people that we serve,” DPS Chief John Thomas said.
Many students gathered in small groups around seven officers, with each officer fielding questions and engaging in conversation. Safety concerns were an important issue for international students who attended, with some citing theft as a crime that they have experienced.
“Two years ago, a guy — a stranger — came into our house and tried to rob us,” Zhang said. “It’s pretty dangerous.”
Li also experienced an account of theft.
“I believe it was last year, when we played basketball at Lyon Center, two of my friends lost their phones [from their bags],” Li said.
Participants also expressed concern about other forms of crime, especially scams. Examples ranged from people being tricked into purchasing fake designer brand items to tax and immigration calls attempting to extort money, according to DPS Community Relations Manager Elizabeth Carreno.
Furthermore, instances of online scammers tricking students into sending explicit photos and blackmailing them have been reported. To address these concerns, DPS officers emphasized the importance of having a relationship between students and officers.
“We want to form those relationships so that people will feel more comfortable if they have a public safety need in reaching out to people they know, not a stranger in a uniform,” said DPS Assistant Chief David Carlisle.
DPS Liaison for International Students Erwin Valencia said the event was about “forming a dialogue” to “let [students] know we’re here for them.”
There was also an agreement that stronger bonds would help students become more knowledgeable about DPS services. Getting to know DPS would help students be safe, CSSA claims.
“DPS provides a lot of service but people just don’t know that. For example, they can walk you home,” Zhang said. “They’re faster than [the Los Angeles Police Department].”
At the end of the event, members of CSSA and DPS gathered for a group photo. Participants expressed a desire for closer ties between students and DPS as a result of the event.
“I think I’d definitely like to see improved relations and trust,” Carreno said. “Often times we see this as opportunities to get to know our officers, but it works both ways; it’s also an opportunity for our officers to get to know our students.”