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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

USC Security Efforts Up As Year Begins

Graham Clark |
August 24, 2012 | 9:13 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

USC's Department of Public Safety employs 270 security personnel and 30 students. (Graham Clark/Neon Tommy)
USC's Department of Public Safety employs 270 security personnel and 30 students. (Graham Clark/Neon Tommy)
The University of Southern California Department of Public Safety and the Los Angeles Police Department are working in conjunction to curb crime on the university grounds and in the immediately surrounding area. The effort has been ongoing since June, spurred by the murder of two USC graduate students northwest of campus two months earlier.

This week saw both groups supplementing their efforts with additional personnel and public outreach.

“We’re anticipating move-in week [August 22-29] as the first days of operation for the safety plan, which we have developed to enhance the safety of the area,” Lt. Al Lopez said.

Lopez is actively the officer in charge of the University Park Task Force, the organization formed within the LAPD to focus on crime in the area. The task force has been evaluated on a weekly and monthly basis, and will be reviewed completely at the end of the year. The stated objective of the group is to reduce crime in the area by 5 percent.

Composed of 35 members of the police force with experience in the region, Lopez said his group’s charge is to “develop trust and ensure the safety of the community that resides within the designated safety zone,” an area that includes USC’s main campus.

The task force’s activities have had a notable impact at the university. Additional patrol units have been brought in to keep an eye on area streets and support students in need.

“We realized that direct patrol, both undercover and uniformed, is only half,” Lopez said. “We need to do an educational piece. We need to educate the student population in security of not only themselves, but of their property.”

Some signs of the initiative have sat immobile on the asphalt of USC since June, with no concrete plans for removal. Large signs were installed throughout the area, bearing the words: Lock It, Hide It, Keep It. It’s a phrase that John Thomas, assistant chief of the Department of Public Safety, refers to as “basically the mantra of Los Angeles property theft prevention.”

“Lock it, hide it, keep is a citywide program,” Thomas said. He cited a need for citizen involvement in assuring their own protection, and the safety of their possessions.

While hesitantly characterizing crime during the onset of the 2012 academic year as “so far so good,” Thomas said DPS will continue to ramp up their activities well into the foreseeable future.

“Students that were here last year, they know that there are more officers around, DPS and LAPD officers," he said.

Of primary concern to Thomas and his group is the growing area in which Trojans reside.

“If you look at where students are starting to migrate too, we’re having to expand our sphere,” he said.

Captain David Carlisle, DPS Training and Media Relations. (Graham Clark/Neon Tommy)
Captain David Carlisle, DPS Training and Media Relations. (Graham Clark/Neon Tommy)
Cpt. David Carlisle, manager of Training and Media Relations for DPS, described the campus-area crime prevention strategy as operational across three levels: DPS patrols, LAPD presence, privately employed security personnel and technological systems such as cameras and subject recognition software. In response to students' growing habitat, security forces now regularly patrol an area northwest of campus previously only visited in response to emergency events. Since Aug. 19, shuttles have been routed to this area throughout the day.

“I think we have a pretty good overall strategy to address crime in the USC community,” Carlisle said. “We’ve been pretty successful, but having said that, there are going to be times when crime goes up. We’re slightly up this year. And we ended up last year above where we were in the four previous straight years. But I’ve been in law enforcement 35 years and sometimes things are beyond your control.”

Student sentiment regarding on-campus safety has been undoubtedly mixed. While echoes of fear and remorse still linger from April’s killings, some students are beginning the year with such thoughts far out of mind.

Two incoming freshman, Zihao Yang and Jia Wei Wang, said no, they’re not worried about crime.

“I think it’s pretty safe here,” Wang said before laughing.

But they’re getting their bikes registered with DPS, as Yang said, “in case they’re being stolen.”


Read more of Neon Tommy's coverage on the USC shootings here.

Reach Staff Reporter Graham Clark here, follow him here.



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