AirTalk for April 12, 2012

Shooting at USC: How safe is the area surrounding campus?

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

A student rides his skateboard past an entrance to the University of Southern California (USC) campus in Los Angeles on April 11, 2012 in California. Two Chinese graduate students from the university were killed early April 11 in a shooting which could have been a failed carjacking in an area southwest of downtown Los Angeles, according to police. Los Angeles has a large Chinese and Chinese-American population, including many students, and certain areas of the city are known for frequent gun violence.

Two international students at the University of Southern California are dead after a late night shooting in the West Adams neighborhood of Los Angeles. Ying Wu and Ming Qu were both graduate students studying electrical engineering USC’s Viterbi School.

According to reports, the students were about a mile from campus when gunshots rang out, striking the car. Wu was shot and was found later slumped over in the car’s passenger seat. The driver, Qu, ran from the car to a nearby home to ask for help, but died from his injuries. First responders found his body on the porch of the home.

The safety of USC’s students has been of paramount importance to the school and international students make up approximately 20 percent of the population. It’s situated in an area that has historically seen high levels of crime and gang violence.

In recent years crime has dropped dramatically, possibly because of gentrification and increased policing.

“Crime is actually down in that area,” said LAPD Commander Andrew Smith, “Across the city, crime is down 77 percent since 1992, in that particular area, comparing this year to last year, violent crime is down 20 percent, and homicides, until of course, yesterday morning, were also down 20 percent.”

However, incidents like this certainly raise concerns about safety near USC. The university has a campus police force, but their jurisdiction is largely limited to the campus and the immediate area. According to KPCC crime reporter Erika Aguilar, USC has started to expand its safety ambassador program to help curb deter and prevent crime.

“The street on which the shootings occurred yesterday, a lot of the students are saying they’re just a little bit on the edge of this so-called security zone,” said Aguilar. “A lot of the neighbors there are saying the student population keeps pushing outside this security zone as students start to look more and more for some kind of housing.”

While the tragic incident involved two USC students, the area in which the crime occurred isn't under USC's jurisdiction. LAPD Commander Andrew Mullendore says that whole USC might have a “moral responsibility” to provide protection for their students off-campus, they’re limited by law.

“SC has a very limited peace officer authority so unless they have something specific in their MOU [memorandum of understanding] with LAPD, they’re basically restricted to going beyond the curb,” said Mullendore. “But liability issues, jurisdictional issues, once you leave that campus it becomes tenuous if you take some enforcement action out there.”

Weigh In

How safe is USC? What does the university do to keep its students as safe as possible? What factors contributed to this crime? How are USC’s students reacting to the shooting? And, how will this impact the numbers of international parents sending their kids the school?

GUESTS

Erika Aguilar, KPCC Crime Reporter

Commander Andrew Smith, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) He is the Commanding Officer of the Media Relations and Community Affairs Group

Phil Mullendore, Director, The Institute for Campus Safety; also Campus Police Chief at Pasadena City College for 22 years


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