Students at the University of South Carolina will be seeing an increased presence of police patrolling campus during the rest of the school year, according to President Harris Pastides.
In a letter distributed Sunday to the university’s 32,000 undergraduate and graduate students, Pastides said “beginning this week, we will provide additional police presence – uniformed and plainclothes – on campus.”
Pastides’ comments came in the wake of at least three criminal incidents at the university within the past week.
USC police will increase the number of patrols carried out during daytime and nighttime hours, Pastides said, though details about those patrols were not available Monday. The university also has been investing in additional resources for new officers as well as equipment, he added, including more cameras around campus and enhanced call boxes, of which the university has 250 on campus.
“The safety and security of our campus is our highest priority,” Pastides said.
Wes Hickman, a university spokesman, said the USC Division of Law Enforcement and Safety currently has 70 officers. Twelve of those were hired within the past two years, he said, with additional hires possible this year. Pastides and the board of trustees have directed an additional $600,000 annually for the past three years to bolster the size and equipment of the campus police department, Hickman said.
The university also has invested in a mobile app called Rave Guardian, Hickman said, which links a user’s phone directly to USC police and offers a variety of personal security features including an emergency alert button, safety timer and the ability to designate emergency contacts.
So far this year, Hickman said, there has been a lower rate of on-campus crimes – particularly violent crimes – compared with previous years, including two in 2013, three in 2012 and three in 2011.
Police are investigating several incidents from this past week.
USC police have released the identity of the suspect connected with Thursday’s robbery. Kevin Rick Oneal, 40, is wanted for armed robbery, and is actively being sought by members of law enforcement, a bulletin issued by the department Monday night said.
The most recent incident, on Sunday, forced university officials to warn students of a potential armed suspect on campus. Students received warning through the Carolina Alert system Twitter feed of an armed subject near the Russell House a little after 1:30 a.m. Sunday. A short time later, another message was sent saying police had searched the area and were unable to locate the individual.
Although no arrests have been made in the incidents involving the armed suspects, Pastides said several investigators and intelligence units are following leads and working with CrimeStoppers.