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Armed robbery and double homicide raise concerns over USC safety

USC Memorial

Mae Ryan/KPCC

A fellow student stands at Wednesday night's memorial service for two international grad students killed near USC's campus.

An armed robbery and two murders of USC students have students, neighborhoods, and staff talking about safety around the university.

It’s unclear whether the armed robbery suspect shot Wednesday by a University of Southern California police officer is tied to the recent murders of two international graduate students, but the latest incident has re-ignited concerns about safety from students, neighbors and people who work at USC.

Gunshots aren’t a familiar sound around the campus, says Frances Wang. The sophomore lives in the “safety zone” patrolled by USC police — but even so, she says her mother will worry.

"She's always been very worried about the neighborhood but I've always reassured her," says Wang. "We purposefully live closer to campus in a nice apartment that's fairly new. And now she's like, 'I want you to live on campus.'"

Wang often hangs out on USC’s fraternity row, just down the street from where four students were robbed at gunpoint about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. After a brief chase, a USC police officer wounded the suspect and arrested him.

The shooting raises eyebrows for Barbara Spindler, whose daughter lives near campus.

Spindler signed up to receive e-mail alerts from campus police, but she’s bothered that a timely message wasn’t sent from the school about the shooting.

"They need a better alert system of letting the kids know, 'Stay in doors,'" according to Spindler.

Students received a university e-mail about the incident eight hours after the robbery occurred. USC officials released a statement saying since there was no immediate threat, no alert was sent. They added they would consider other options in the future to send information in a more timely manner.

Most crimes around the USC campus are vehicle break-ins or stolen property. It’s become a lot safer, says Janet Favela.

Favela grew up in the neighborhoods surrounding USC and she says the crime here is nothing new. It just happens to now involve students. 

"It’s more of what people within the neighborhood would experience on a regular basis," says Favela. The long-term resident hopes USC will work with the community to make the entire area safer... and not just for students. 

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