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USC steps up safety as new semester starts

USC arraignment

Erika Aguilar/KPCC

Several USC students and alumni attend the arraignment hearing of two men charged with the murders of two USC Chinese graduate students.

It's moving week at USC, and as students flood into campus over the next few days, they'll be returning to a campus that's revamped security over the summer. 

In April, two graduate students from China were killed in what police described as a carjacking gone wrong. Ying Wu and Ming Qu were in a car about a mile west of campus when they were killed. 

Their deaths spurred safety concerns for USC students living off campus, particularly those living in the outskirts of the campus perimeter. USC is in a traditionally low-income area, with a higher than average crime rate for Los Angeles.

In addition, there were particular concerns that USC's population of international students — the largest in the country — may not be familiar with the dangers of living in a city. 

After the shootings, USC reexamined its safety plan and came up with new ideas. Over the summer, USC implemented the changes it promised in the spring, said USC Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Jackson. Specifically, the school will host safety workshops for students, started a new website specifically for students from abroad with information on housing and safety and partnered with the LAPD to increase patrols in the area.

In addition to stationing a new detective and city attorney in the area, there are about 30 additional LAPD officers in the neighborhood.

But, said Jackson, it's important for students to take responsibility for their own safety as well.

"I think people really need to be vigilant," Jackson said. "You have expensive technology on you, you might have a wallet full of credit cards and some cash. It's the petty thievery that's the most problematic."

Two suspects have been charged in the killings of the two graduate students. Police have also captured suspects in several thefts in the area recently.

Meanwhile, the parents of the two slain students are suing the university. They claim that USC misrepresents how safe the campus is in its outreach to international students.

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