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Chinese Students Grill USC, LAPD Reps On Shooting And Safety Issues

Gracie Zheng |
April 17, 2012 | 2:21 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter


USC students held candlelight vigil for shooting victims on April 11, 2012. (Photo by Gracie Zheng)
USC students held candlelight vigil for shooting victims on April 11, 2012. (Photo by Gracie Zheng)

More than 150 students gathered to address their safety concerns in the aftermath of last week's killings of two graduate students, in a discussion Monday night with representatives from the Los Angeles Police Department and USC's Department of Public Safety.

Participants observed a moment of silence in memory of Ying Wu and Ming Qu, who were shot dead about a mile from campus last Wednesday in the West Adams neighborhood. They were both studying electrical engineering at the university's Viterbi School.

"Needless to say, this is a trying time for everyone," said Michael Jackson, vice president of student affairs. "It's never easy to call a family and say their son or daughter has died. We just get through it."

Jackson said the victims' parents arrived in Los Angeles last Saturday and were escorted to a hotel, and that detectives briefed them on the progress of the investigation Monday morning. 

He tried to appease students' worries and concerns, and was bombarded with questions from students. Many expressed their concerns of living in the neighborhoods around campus. 

"I get phone calls from my parents every day. They asked me to transfer to other universities and come back home as soon as I graduate," said one speaker.

The Chinese students organizations that sponosored the event sought to restrict media access to US-China Today, a student-run publication of the USC U.S.-China Institute. Students were asked to show their IDs as they entered the conference room.

LAPD Southwest Bureau Capt. Melissa Zak blamed the killings on "an idiot who took two lives." She called it a "safe community" and said 158 violent crimes occurred around USC in 2010, down from 220 in 2007. 

A student mentioned a shooting last September involving two USC students who got shot in an confrontation over headphones at a party, and questioned if the school has taken measures since then to deter gun-related violence in the community.

 Zak said the gunman found out about the party from a text message."My biggest fear is the parties," she said. "It's a recipe for disaster when you have uninvited guests."

"The social media is something your generation has to deal with," she said.

The discussion was tense and solemn. Students voiced their opinions and questions loud and clear. 

Some called out to university officials and said, "You're not doing a good job" to keep students safe.

A female student said she couldn't imagine what the victims' parents are going through as they grieve over losing their only children. "Our parents sent us to USC not to get us killed," she said.

Carey Drayton, chief of USC's Department of Public Safety, encouraged students to be alert to things that seem out of the ordinaryl in the neighborhood and to be well-informed of how to stay safe. "It takes a tragedy to fill the room and talk about safety issues," he said.

Halfway through the two-hour long discussion, students didn't seem to be satisfied with the responses from school officials and the LAPD officer, repeatedlly interrupting them as they spoke.

A USC alumni who graduated two years ago flew to Los Angeles from the Bay Area Saturday to attend the forum.

"This isn't about what students should do. It's about what you should do as LAPD, USC and DPS," he said. He also suggested the university improve street lighting, install night-vision surveillance cameras on major intersections, and extend cruise boundaries around campus.

He said he personally knew several Chinese students who were already admitted to USC and are not planning to enroll because of the shooting.

The shooting happened close to Ying Wu's home on the 2700 block of Raymond Avenue in the West Adams area. Friends said she could save rent by staying in the area west of Vermont Avenue. Housing in that area is about $400 to $500 per month. Residents in this area are mostly students and middle-class families.

Students asked the university to make USC housing affordable so they can stay in a safe neighborhood. Jackson said USC has been building housing and will continue to do so.

Students didn't seem to be convinced about Jackson's promises even though he reaffirmed the commitment of new housing that he said would take a few years to complete. "You didn't mention what you're going to do exactly. You don't have a plan," said a student. 

A few complained about the campus cruisers, saying their requests were denied because their destinations are not in the service area.

A female student said she had to take the school bus late at night that doesn't reach her apartment. 

"I was really scared when walking from the bus stop to my house," she said.

"You can't ignore students' inquiry about safety because sometimes it's not safe." Students said the university should extend the boundaries of the campus cruiser service area.

Others raised questions on the progress of the case.

Captain Zak said they are working around the clock with the FBI and ATF. The leads they got so far are "solid and promising," but there is "no speedy resolution" as they will make sure they get the right person.

Two hours into the discussion, many students were still waiting to speak their minds. Some stayed after the session to talk with the representatives.

International Students Assembly, one of the students organizations putting on the event, prepared surveys on safety issues to get students' feedback.

The Chinese Students and Scholars Association is working out details with the university to establish a fund to accept donations for the victims' family, according to its announcement on RenRen, a Chinese social network.


Reach Staff Reporter Gracie Zheng here.



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