The Department of Public Safety at USC has been consistently trying to make new efforts to stop the various crimes, but their attempts have been answered with more and more attacks on students. While the Office of Student Affairs has installed new trams, later hours for Campus Cruiser, more blue security lights and increased patrol officers off-campus, the crimes continue.
With two sexual assault reports within one week in September and the death of USC Cinematic Arts student, Bryan Frost, two weeks later, students have a right to question the shoddy reputation of the South Central neighborhood that the USC bubble sits in. But this past Halloween matters were made worse when another USC student was shot outside a fraternity-sponsored event right off-campus.
The two assaults that happened in September occurred late at night when young women were walking home alone to their off-campus USC-owned apartments that are directly across the street from campus. Next, a USC student was stabbed after what local newspapers report “an altercation” went violent outside an off-campus USC apartment complex. Students and faculty at USC mourned the life of Frost, an excellent student and active fraternity member, and hoped that an attack of that nature on a student would never happen again.
The Vice-President of Student Affairs, Michael L. Jackson, told people in his Open Letter to the USC Community on Oct. 22: “DPS patrols the University Park campus and the surrounding area constantly.”
DPS held a seminar for sorority girls teaching effective methods of self-defense and how to avoid being raped. While the university is doing all it can to try to keep their students safe, it’s important that the students realize they live in an urban city neighborhood and they need to be especially careful and aware of their surroundings at all times.
Students receive crime update emails from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) that briefly outline what, when and where the incident occurred and what authorities are doing in response to it. However, the recent shooting of freshman track star Bryshon Nellum was not and still has not been reported to the students.
Concerned students had to read on ESPN the next day to find out that Nellum was shot three times in the legs as he was exiting Leonardo’s Night Club on Vermont Avenue late Friday night. According to an article in the Daily Trojan, authorities believe this event may be gang-related.
This week students at USC have decided to take matters into their own hands and start a petition to show their concerns about recent events. The Facebook Group, Petition for Student Safety – Fight for Your Rights Trojans!, created by USC sophomore Jonathan Willbanks, hopes to reach 1,500 members (five percent of the USC student body) and then have a serious case to take before the USC administration.
“There’s this misconception that the safety problems around campus are the fault of students making bad decisions and walking through shady neighborhoods in the middle of the night,” Willibanks says. “But in reality, students are getting mugged in the early evening and even in broad daylight. Many students have even been robbed in groups. This is happening on both sides of the campus.”
Students are frustrated with the administration because of the failure of their core safety systems, which were promised when students decided to come here. While most students don’t expect police to be patrolling every street and alley 24 hours a day, many are conflicted about the extent to which police presence is necessary to keep us safe.
The petition asks that the University extend the hours of essential services like Campus Cruiser, which pick up and drive students to various locations on and off-campus when they don’t feel safe walking. They also ask that more Campus Cruiser cars are available and the emergency response system is quickened so students don’t have to wait so long in life-threatening situations.
A new system, developed in conjunction with Yellow Cab, will allow students to use the discretionary funds on their USCcard student accounts to pay for taxis to pick them up on and around USC. However, this has not been highly publicized and many students aren’t aware of the new services yet.
While a bike being stolen may stream the headlines at UCLA, minor crimes and robberies are no longer hefty news at the crime-ridden campus of USC. Many students are wondering whether the new, increased power of the Department of Public Safety at USC is over-reaching their boundaries or if heightened security is quintessential in keeping students safe. DPS officers are now allowed to arrest people instead of only being allowed to detain someone.
But after a very rough first few months of crime on and around campus, I think all concerned parents and students can agree that something needs to be done because students no longer feel safe. But the real question is: What needs to be done?