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After student slayings, a new security push around USC

April 26, 2012 |  5:27 pm

USC and the Los Angeles Police Department announced sweeping new security measures Thursday, including the addition of 30 police officers to the area surrounding the campus.

The move comes three weeks after the university was stunned by the slayings of two graduate students from China, a case that remains unsolved. The new measures go beyond more police on the street and include crime data-sharing with USC public safety officials, improved street lighting and the addition of a city prosecutor who will focus on cases in and around the campus.

“This will provide a significant increase in police presence around USC,” said LAPD spokesman Andrew Smith, adding the extra 30 officers will increase the Southwest Division’s total personnel by about 7.5%.

An LAPD detective, as well as four officers, will be assigned specifically to work on and around campus with USC safety officials. The additional officers, who were shifted from other LAPD divisions, will increase patrol and conduct more frequent parole checks on local gang members.

Additional security cameras will also be installed, and the university will continue to trim overgrown trees that have been blocking street lighting, an initiative that USC has been working with the city on for several years, said USC public safety Capt. David Carlisle.

“We got permission from the city to trim city-owned trees at our expense,” Carlisle said. “The city has also allowed us to put security cameras on city light posts and change in brighter, more energy-efficient, light bulbs.”

Officials said USC will also cover most of the personnel costs for the new officers, though no details were provided by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, who was joined at a news conference Thursday by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and USC President C.L. Max Nikias.

While crime around the campus has dropped in recent years, the killings of the students is one of several recent incidents that have unnerved the community.

Last week, a campus police officer shot and wounded a man suspected of robbing four students at gunpoint as they walked along the university's fraternity row about 12:30 a.m. on April 18. The students were not injured.

A week earlier, Ming Qu and Ying Wu, both 23 and graduate students from China studying electrical engineering, were fatally shot less than a mile from campus a week before that.

The students had been chatting in a 2003 BMW around 1 a.m. on April 11, when a gunman shot two or three times into the driver's side. Property belonging to the students was missing, leading investigators to suspect that robbery may have been the motive for the crime.

No one has been arrested in connection with their deaths. The city and school have offered rewards totaling $200,000 for information leading to an arrest in the case.

Since the deaths of Qu and Wu, more than 1,000 friends, faculty and officials have come together for a formal memorial with the victims’ families. Students organized a candlelight vigil, and many have held gatherings in local chapels.

A quiet funeral was held Friday before the parents returned to China. Various student organizations have raised more than $18,000 for the two families, Peter Wang, president of USC’s Chinese Students and Scholars Assn., said.

Wang, a junior at USC, said he hopes the university will follow through with the security enhancements. The Chinese Students Scholars Assn. and other student groups have been leading open forums on safety concerns and are meeting with Nikias next week to discuss future improvements such as increasing on-campus housing and safety orientations for incoming students.

“I’ve had friends back in China [considering schools in America] email me about the current situation, asking how security is,” Wang said. “For the last two weeks, I’ve been responding: ‘I’ll see what we can do.’ Now I can tell them this new information, and hopefully we can all feel safer.”

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-- Rosanna Xia

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