USC students on Friday welcomed the latest round of additional safety measures announced in reaction to the beating death of a graduate student near campus last month, but differed on whether it was too little, too late.
The university said in a statement Friday it was increasing security staffing in and around the campus, upgrading camera systems and enhancing public safety training for students. The move was the latest by USC to bolster security after a string of shootings two years ago put current and prospective students on edge.
Chloe Wu, a first-year Chinese graduate student, said she and other Chinese students had been notified of the additional safety measures through an online chat service.
"If they're actually going to take place, I think campus might be a lot safer," she said.
But the measures could have been put in place sooner, she said.
"I think they should have known beforehand because it's a sketchy neighborhood. Around campus, it should be safe, but it's not," Wu said.
She lives off campus, near where Xinran Ji -- a 24-year-old engineering student from China -- was fatally beaten with a baseball bat.
"A lot of Chinese students are afraid to go out after dark because we just got here and we don't have a car," she said. "Even people who have a car think it might not be safe for us to go out at night."
Vivian Lu, a 19-year-old undergraduate junior who lives across from the campus, said she hadn't heard of the announcement, but agreed with plans to improve wait times for the Campus Cruiser -- a free ride service for students -- and increase the number of cameras.
"Then you'll be able to see suspicious acts right away, you'll be able to know who the suspects are and respond faster," she said.
Video surveillance played a key role in the arrests of four people -- ages 16 to 19 -- who have been charged with murder in Ji's death. Authorities said he was attacked as he walked home from a study group at 12:45 a.m. July 24 a few blocks from campus near the corner of 29th Street and Orchard Avenue.
A 14-year-old girl has also been charged for her alleged role in a violent robbery that police say proceeded the Ji attack.
The security enhancements announced Friday were just the latest response to a series of violent incidents in recent years that have shaken the student population.
In April 2012, two 23-year-old Chinese graduate students in the electrical engineering program, Ying Wu and Ming Qu, were shot to death about 1 a.m. while sitting in a parked BMW just west of campus.
Six months after Wu and Qu were slain, a gunman opened fire in a crowd outside a Halloween party near the center of USC in which four people were wounded.
"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," Elizabeth Garrett, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said in a statement announcing the changes.
USC said its "safety ambassadors" will now work year-round, including the summer. Security cameras will be placed in locations off-campus, and more USC security and
Some students on Friday said they had already noticed a ramp-up in security measures.
"Before the crime happened, there were no USC ambassadors near Ralphs. Now there are," said Xingmeng Xu, a 24-year-old Chinese graduate student who lives off campus.
She noted that since international students do not have family in the area, they tend to live near the campus.
"I think the place near the campus might not be the safest place, I admit that, but I think the campus did very well to protect our safety," Xu said.
Nikhil Moorjani and Sourabh Patodi arrived less than a week ago to begin their graduate studies. They said they live on 30th Street, the same street on which Ji was killed.
They said that while they think the university should make students aware of safety measures, ultimately it is the students' responsibility to do what they can to protect themselves, like walking in groups and staying off the streets late at night.
"They can make us aware, but the responsibility lies in our hands," Moorjani said.
Lu, who lives across from the campus, agreed.
"I think it really comes down to being smart," Lu said. "Realize, you live in South-Central."