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Parents worry about safety after USC shooting

November 1, 2012 |  1:36 pm

USC student Charles Hopkins knew his mother would call him Thursday morning from San Diego regarding the on-campus shooting on Halloween.

So the 19-year-old science major called her first.

"She was like, 'Are you OK? What do you think the school is going to do about it?'" he said.

PHOTOS: Shooting at USC Halloween party

Hopkins, a sophomore, said he's seen an increase in the number of LAPD officers in the surrounding neighborhood after the off-campus shooting last year.

But he said the school should do more to keep the campus secure.

"I feel like anybody has access to come onto campus.... I feel there is something lacking," he said.

Hopkins said USC should add more school safety officers on campus and tell prospective students on tours about the school's efforts to keep the campus safe.

The Halloween shooting has more of a potential to hurt USC's reputation than last year's because this time it took place on campus, he said

"I hope not," he said, "but it could."

Earlier in the day Victor Ramirez, a teacher at San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara, walked with another teacher and about 35 students on a tour of campus.

They were on the tour, he said, to gain exposure to the college experience and possibly their future university.

He said he didn't inform the students of last night's shooting -- and the tour guide didn't either.

While the students toured Heritage Hall, stopping to gawk at sports memorabilia that included Heisman trophies, Ramirez said he wouldn't discourage any student from attending USC because of Wednesday night's events.

"Unfortunately [these things] happen everywhere," he said.

One Oregon mother emailed the Times to express concern about the shooting.

“Kids feel safe there, but obviously they are not,” said the mother, who asked not to be identified. “I have a second child going through the college app process and as of this morning, I likely will not have her apply there. If they need to build a moat around the school, so be it. I want my child safe.”

College admissions expert Barmak Nassirian said that the reaction of forbidding a child from applying to a college is more the exception than the rule.

That usually occurs only after repeated reports of campus crimes, he said.

"If a pattern emerges to a point where an institution gains a reputation as dangerous, regardless of how diligent campus security is, that certainly can be a factor in parental thinking about destinations for their kids," Nassirian, a higher education policy consultant.

However, he said he did not think USC will face any such widespread reaction even with the Halloween shootings and the double murder earlier this year of two Chinese graduate students who were gunned down while sitting in a car off-campus.

"It takes more than two incidents," he said, adding that the two crimes also are very different and do not present a pattern.

"People understand that random crime has become a fact of life when it is not very frequent. But if it becomes very frequent that can affect parents' willingness to accept some venues," he added.

Colleges are usually better policed and safer than their surrounding communities, particularly in big cities.

But he said there are limits to what schools can do "to create an absolute island of security."


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-- Andrew Khouri, Kate Mather and Larry Gordon