News And Politics

USC grapples with stigma of unsafe location

April 12, 2012, 3:08 p.m.

Police at the scene of the shooting deaths of two USC students on Wednesday in the Adams-Normandie neighborhood of the West Adams district. (Credit: Erika Aguilar/KPCC)

USC's South Los Angeles location has always been a point of challenge for the school – the institution is a beacon of wealth, prestige and privilege in a region where the vast majority of people make less than $20,000 a year.

Following the shooting deaths of USC graduate students Ying Wu and Ming Qu early Wednesday morning, the university has had to again grapple with the stigma of being located in an area perceived as unsafe.

KPCC's Erika Aguilar reports that USC's perennial challenge has been to "reassure prospective students and their parents that the area around USC is safe."

A statement released by the school in wake of the murders suggested as much – Michael Jackson, the school's vice president of Student Affairs, and Todd Dickey, the senior vice president of Administration, wrote that the incident "occurred outside the neighborhood areas where over the past several years we have steadily increased our security presence, adding dozens of security and license plate recognition cameras, uniformed officers, and yellow-jacketed security ambassadors."

Still, the administrators wrote – even though "crime in [USC's] community is low compared to other areas of Los Angeles" – vigilance is key.

The shooting took place on the 2700 block of Raymond Avenue near 27th Street, in the West Adams district. The specific area in which it took place, according to the Los Angeles Times Mapping L.A. project, is called Adams-Normandie.

The Times' six-month summary for Adams-Normandie paints a picture of an area that's seen a dip in crime since November 2011. Fifty-one crimes total took place there in November, while 30 were logged this past February. Over the six months, there have been 234 incidents of crime.

Of those, 77 are violent crimes, with one homicide, two rapes, 25 cases of aggravated assault and 49 robberies.

Those numbers have not been updated to reflect the homicides of the two USC students.

But despite the dip in crime, with a crime rate of 126.5 crimes per 10,000 people, Adams-Normandie ranks 28 out of 209 neighborhoods in Los Angeles for violent crimes.

University Park, where the bulk of USC's campus is located, has seen 52 violent crimes in the last six months and no homicides.

On the other hand, Exposition Park, to the immediate south of the university, has logged 196 violent crimes in the last six months (although zero homicides). A crime rate of 180.8 crimes per 10,000 people ranks it 15 out of 209 neighborhoods for violent crimes, worse than Adams-Normandie.

And directly to the east, Historic South-Central saw 274 violent crimes in the past six months, three of them homicides. That gives the area a crime rate of 172.4 crimes per 10,000 people, ranking it slightly better than Exposition Park – 19 out of 209 neighborhoods.

Still, police told KPCC that violent crime is down in the area 20 percent this year, and another neighbor said that the area is "peaceful" and that this was the first shooting she could recall since moving to the neighborhood three years ago.

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