Property crimes drop after USC implements new safety measures

Students pass by the Tommy Trojan statue on the USC campus.
(Christina House / For the Times)

USC officials are attributing a drop in property crimes at the university to security measures put in place following an on-campus Halloween night shooting that left four teenagers wounded two years ago.

The biggest factor in the reduction, officials say, was limiting public access to the university in the evening. Only students, staff and registered guests are permitted on campus between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. As a result, property crimes during those hours have been cut in half, according to statistics from the university and the Los Angeles Police Department.

The 2012 shooting, which occurred yards away from the iconic Tommy Trojan statue, prompted university officials to focus on security within its walls as much as they had on off-campus streets, where older students tend to reside.


The school’s Department of Public Safety installed additional security cameras and license plate cameras, and campus dorms introduced fingerprint scanners for entry. About 1,500 feet of fencing went up along the school’s 2-mile perimeter, and after 9 p.m. security guards check identification cards of everyone coming inside.

Los Angeles police recorded 23 theft or burglary reports at USC during the overnight hours in 2013, down from 49 the year before.

The decline in reports of stolen bicycles, snatched laptops and missing iPods has continued into 2014, with six such crimes suspected during the spring semester.

“Thieves know every student has laptop, iPad and smartphone — it’s a target-rich environment for thieves and there are thieves that specialize in targeting college campuses,” said David Carlisle, USC Public Safety’s deputy chief. “These evening restrictions have helped reduce the amount of thefts on campus.”

Across all hours, violent crimes such as robberies and aggravated assaults fell to four incidents in 2013 from 11 in 2012, according to Los Angeles police data. This year, there have been two reported violent crimes as of mid-May, according to police records.

The number of thefts and burglaries on campus during unrestricted hours held steady at 323 each of the past two years, according to Los Angeles police statistics.


During the day, twice as many campus gates are open to handle the nearly 40,000 students and staff coming in and out. Checking everyone’s ID during the day would be impractical, Carlisle said. But other measures are in place.

Every car that comes onto campus — and many others that cruise surrounding streets — has its license plate both analyzed against and saved to a statewide police database. The first of the scanners was installed in 2011, and more were added after the shooting. They’ve led to at least 40 arrests, Carlisle said.

The new security rules initially drew criticism from some students, but now are generally accepted, said Christian Kurth, who was elected student body president soon after the changes were announced.

“Most students and most students’ parents didn’t find it too unreasonable,” he said. “People have realized this is the new way things are done now.”

The shooting that prompted the new security measures occurred at a student-organized Halloween party.

The lone gunman, 21-year-old Brandon Spencer, was recently sentenced to 40 years to life in prison after being convicted on four counts of attempted murder. Neither Spencer, nor his four victims, were enrolled at USC.