In a series of late night alerts issued over the weekend, public safety officials informed students of low-level police activity in a local neighborhood and warned residents to avoid the area.
Last Saturday night, at around 11:30 p.m., the Los Angeles Police Department was chasing a stolen vehicle, according to David Carlisle, the Assistant Chief of the Department of Public Safety, and the vehicle crashed in the area of W 35th and S Catalina streets. The suspect fled into the neighborhood. He was later found hiding in a yard and taken into custody, Carlisle said.
"I started walking towards 35th Street, which is where I live, when I got the alert on my phone that I should stay out of the area," said Mircea Gogoncea, a USC student. "I considered it, but it's my house, so I didn't really know what to do."
USC DPS sent multiple text message and email alerts as part of the Trojan Alerts notification system beginning shortly after midnight. Carlisle said DPS aims to do regular updates every 30 minutes until an incident concludes. In this case, a final alert stating that police activity had concluded and the area was safe was issued around 1:30 a.m.
"I was impressed with the fact that [DPS is] able to get these alerts out really fast because as soon as the helicopter left the third time, it literally took 20 seconds for them to send the alert and to say that everything was okay," Gogoncea said. "Every time the police came back, I would get the new alert saying 'Continued Activity' and I was thinking they're on time and this is all happening in real time."
Despite DPS' consistent updates on the night of the search, Gogoncea says he gathered a lot of information on his own by speaking with other residents in the area. He was left wondering what exactly occurred in the days following the incident.
"It would have been nice to at least explain what happened, but maybe that is still coming," Gogoncea said. "Maybe they haven't figured out everything yet. I don't know. I don't want to give them too much credit, but they might be waiting."
Carlisle highlighted the difficulties of providing accurate reports in real time. He recognized the tension between scaring people and providing enough information for residents to protect themselves. Gogoncea, for example, saw the warnings but felt he could make it safely home.
"We don't want to unnecessarily alarm people. We want to give enough information so people understand police activity and avoid that area," said Carlisle "We don't know the details until it works through. If we have [details], we will provide what we think and, in our best judgment, is most important to students' safety."
While students may respond differently to the alerts, Carlisle believes that communicating directly with the student body in the event of a major emergency is crucial. He stressed the importance of registering for Trojan Alerts and keeping university account information, such as a cell phone number, on file and up-to-date.
"That's the most important thing," Carlisle said, "And pay attention to those alerts."