If eyes on the street deter crime, the USC neighborhood west of Vermont Avenue is about to become a lot less friendly to criminals.
The yellow-shirted security ambassadors, who have made such a difference in North University Park will spread into the area west of campus in coming months, along with uniformed public safety officers and dozens of mounted and monitored security cameras.
The major security push will add 30 pairs of eyes – 12 officers, 12 ambassador locations and six camera operators – to the neighborhoods surrounding USC, adding significantly more security between Vermont and Normandie avenues. The operators will follow more than 40 new cameras, many of them focused for the first time west of campus.
“This is an extremely significant change to our security strategy,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias. “Hundreds of our students are choosing to live west of Vermont, and I felt it was very important to offer them the same level of security enjoyed by students living north of campus.”
The coverage will deter crime before it happens, said USC Department of Public Safety chief Carey Drayton, though he emphasized that crime west of campus is already low in relation to surrounding areas.
“This is a proactive approach to maintain the safety we currently enjoy,” Drayton said. “We are going to minimize the spaces where crime can occur. This is just another step in our technology-focused crime suppression strategy.”
The formula to combine on-the-ground police work with technology is working, as there has been a nearly 50 percent drop in Clery Act reportable crimes since 2006, according to Drayton.
The public safety officers will walk, bike or drive around the neighborhood while the security ambassadors, employed by the Contemporary Services Corp., will be stationary as they observe and report. In 2009, USC placed nearly two dozen security ambassadors in North University Park.
“USC is committed to the public safety of its students,” said Todd Dickey, senior vice president for administration. “This initiative helps the university achieve its goal of a culture of safety and awareness.”
Shelley Wu, who moved west of Vermont last semester and is pursuing a master’s in electrical engineering, said: “I think it’s great. I used to live north of campus and you always see the guys in yellow and it makes you feel safe. I haven’t seen any crimes over here, but they would make me feel more secure.”
University administrators have consulted with several groups to reduce crime around campus, including a public safety task force group for students, parents, faculty and staff. The university also created a community safety task force with the USC Family of Schools, which includes 10 elementary and high schools around the USC University Park campus.
The Department of Public Safety works with the area’s neighborhood councils on public safety issues and has visited several universities and public safety agencies to review their practices.
“We’re looking to make an already safe place even safer,” Drayton said.