Two weeks after a Chinese graduate student was beaten to death just blocks from campus, officials at the University of Southern California announced on Friday that they were preparing to implement a number of new security measures to increase safety in the University Park area.
Xinran Ji, 24, was killed in the early morning hours of July 24 in a violent attempted robbery, authorities said. He had been walking home to his off-campus apartment when he was attacked near the intersection of 29th Street and Orchard Avenue. Four teens have been charged in connection with the fatal beating.
The new measures that would be implemented following his death included increased year-round neighborhood security, additional improvements to safety technology, more security personnel and faster wait times for campus cruisers, according to a USC news release.
USC officials would also meet with Chinese student leaders, parents and other student groups to discuss security concerns and figure out if other measures were needed on and around campus, the release stated.
“At the beginning of the school year we will meet with additional student groups, because our entire university community is committed to creating a safe environment. All of us must be actively involved,” Elizabeth Garrett, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, stated in the release. “Safety is a shared responsibility – it includes both practices and methods adopted by the university and precautions that our students, faculty and staff need to take with an awareness of their surroundings.”
As part of the improvements, USC will increase and expand "neighborhood security ambassadors" to cover the area year-round, including during the summer. The expansion efforts would add more USC Department of Public Safety and Los Angeles Police Department foot-beats and bicycle patrols around the University Park area, where the campus is located. An International Student Safety Advisory group would also be formed as part of the expansion of neighborhood watch programs.
Additionally, the university's vehicle escort service, Campus Cruiser, would expand its service area while wait times would be reduced to a maximum of 15 minutes, according to the release.
The university also revealed plans to expedite a free mobile safety app that would allow USC students, faculty and staff to contact DPS, the release stated. Another proposal would upgrade video analytics used in the university's surveillance cameras.
The school also planned to promote safety awareness by including education programs at summer orientation programs for incoming students that will run through the beginning of the school year. Those programs would be extended to all international graduate students as well.
The security upgrade follows the recent enhancements that came after a rash of violence in the area that included two Chinese students being fatally shot off-campus in April 2012, and an on-campus shooting that occurred right outside the campus center on Halloween night that same year.
Citing LAPD and Clery crime statistics, USC stated that crime in the area has been greatly reduced on campus and the surrounding areas following the implementation of the new measures two years ago.
“USC evaluates and upgrades its security measures and safety procedures on an ongoing basis, and we are glad that we have been successful working with LAPD in reducing crime overall,” Todd Dickey, senior vice president for administration, said in the release. “However, the tragic death of Xinran Ji, shows that random criminal acts can take place in spite of our best efforts, and it further strengthens our resolve to find additional ways that we can help prevent such senseless tragedies.”