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USC boosts nighttime security after recent campus shooting

The new measures will restrict late-night entrance to the campus and require identification checks for all visitors between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Four people were shot last week.

November 07, 2012|By Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times
  • A campus security officer patrols the area near the student union at USC where four people were wounded by gunfire during a Halloween party.
A campus security officer patrols the area near the student union at USC… ( Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

In the wake of last week's shooting on campus, USC on Tuesday announced heightened security measures that will restrict late-night entrance to the university and require identification checks for all visitors between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

In addition, outside promoters will be banned from working on USC social events at campus facilities or on nearby Fraternity Row, according to USC President C. L. Max Nikias. The shooting, in which four people were wounded — none of them USC students — occurred outside a Halloween party promoted by a non-USC firm that invited people from across the city.

Campus reaction was generally positive, but some lamented that USC will present more of an insular image. National experts on college policing said the moves would help make the Los Angeles campus more secure although enforcement would be difficult.

Nikias described the changes, which will be fully implemented by January, as "a small inconvenience given how strongly I feel about the safety and security of the campus." He said the vast majority of non-USC visitors will not be affected, including those who attend concerts, lectures or sports events that begin before 9 p.m.

He said USC will remain a campus "that welcomes all our neighbors" for athletics, entertainment, education and community programs.

Under the plan, entrance to the campus will be restricted to students, faculty, staff and their guests in those late night and early morning hours and anyone arriving during those times will be asked to show identification. Late-night guests will have to be escorted in by a USC-affiliated person or be confirmed as a guest by phone, Nikias said.

Other measures will include stronger scrutiny of proposals for large student parties, increased security patrols, and more cameras on and near campus. Nikias said no new walls or gates will be added to those that enclose parts of USC but landscaping will be planted at currently open campus boundaries along Jefferson Boulevard. He said he did not know yet the costs of all the changes.

The Halloween incident occurred only six months after two graduate students from China were fatally shot in a robbery less than a mile from campus. Both incidents raised concerns about campus safety and whether potential applicants would be scared away from the school, which is south of downtown.

Undergraduate student body President Michael Geragos, a senior from Pasadena, called the new policies "a great step towards ensuring safety on campus" and added that "any inconvenience that this might cause the students is outweighed by the positive impact it has on student safety and wellness."

"This is definitely a good idea at night," said Danny Razzano, a freshman from Irvine. "I think it will prevent the thing that happened at the Halloween party from happening again because the people involved were not USC students."

However, dissent was evident on the website of the campus newspaper, the Daily Trojan. One recent alumnus wrote that the rules were "a travesty" because USC would no longer be an open campus. "The more 'SC walls itself off from the community, the more hostile the environment becomes," the 2011 graduate wrote.

The new ID requirement could affect people like Georgia Castillo, a Los Angeles Trade Tech student who hangs out at USC for fun, although rarely after 9 p.m.

"I guess they've got to do what they've got to do," Castillo said. "The good suffers for the bad. I mean people like us will get stopped even though we're not doing anything wrong."

While many colleges control entrance into buildings, restricting access to outdoor grounds of such large campuses as USC is rare across the country, said Anne Glavin, police chief at Cal State Northridge and president of the International Assn. of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

She predicted the measures, which could be hard to enforce, would help USC "certainly during those night-time hours when things can get more difficult." Her campus, which does not have gates or walls, could not attempt such rules, she said.

Another big-city school, Columbia University in New York, locks some campus entrances at night and posts guards at open ones, but it does not check identification or restrict visitors on school grounds, said James McShane, vice president for public safety. It has more security cameras than USC does and those, along with patrols, monitor suspicious activity. USC's new rules, McShane said, will help reduce crime if accompanied by other security improvements.

Janet Shamilian, a USC senior studying political science, said that although she never feels unsafe on campus, she knows the security boost will ease her parents' concerns.

"I felt safe a week ago and I feel even safer now," Shamilian said. "And I'm sure my parents do too."

A 19-year-old Inglewood man, who is a licensed security guard, has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder in connection with the campus shooting.

Times staff writer Marisa Gerber contributed to this report.

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