RUPD crime alert
The Rice University Police Department is in the process of hiring four new security officers, one to two of whom will be on patrol around campus at a time between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. The security officers will not have the same powers or responsibilities as police officers, as they will not have the power to make arrests or be armed. However, they will have a uniform and they will carry radios with which they will be able to contact RUPD's dispatchers should they see any suspicious activity.
"Our focus right now is on the front line," Police Chief Johnny Whitehead said. "I think the security [officers are] going to help with that."
Jones College Chief Justice Hayley Jones said she thought that adding security officers was a positive measure given the number of crime alerts sent out over the past year.
"It's easy for us to forget that people who aren't from Rice can easily wander onto campus," Jones, a junior, said. "Things we're not cognizant of can end up hurting us in the long run."
Jones said it was important, though, that a distinction be made between reporting security threats and calling in parties.
Whitehead said that the purpose of the security officers will be to patrol the campus grounds, with a focus on parking lots and poorly lit areas. He said that he currently has no plans to use the security officers as additional security at parties, though he also said he would not rule out the possibility for the future.
Thanks to savings in other areas, the additional security officers will not increase RUPD's budget, according to Whitehead.
Duncan College Chief Justice Zuhdi Abdo said that he thinks the presence of the security officers will help deter most crimes, but that armed criminals may not be as discouraged by anything short of armed police officers.
"It's the presence of an officer that makes students feel safe," Abdo, a junior, said.
Neither Jones nor Abdo reported having heard concerns from students about their safety on campus.
Whitehead said that RUPD is also planning to roll out a crime prevention campaign by having officers talk with students at college government meetings and putting up posters advising students to secure their valuables.
"The campus is kind of an oasis," Whitehead said. "It's good to remind folks we're in a major metropolitan area."
While Whitehead said most types of crimes, including property crimes, have been decreasing on campus, there were three robberies last year, more than in previous years.
In January, a university consultant told RUPD that two men attempted to rob him between Entrance 5 and Wiess College.
In April, a Rice employee reported to RUPD that a man had attempted to rob her at gunpoint along the sidewalk north of the football stadium. RUPD has since installed two mirrors along the path there so that pedestrians can see around the blind corners.
In May, a student reported being robbed at gunpoint near Entrance 23, by the Martel College parking lot.
A student also reported being robbed by a man several blocks north of campus on Sunday.
Rice Police sent out a crime alert on Monday morning to inform students of a robbery that took place Sunday at 11:30 p.m. at Ashby Street and Wroxton.
According to Whitehead, the student was walking north from campus up Ashby and noticed a white car going the other direction when she got to Wroxton. The student told RUPD that the car then turned onto Wroxton and turned around, at which point the car's passenger, whom the student described as a Latino male, asked the student for directions. According to the alert, the man then grabbed the students legs, took her bag, which contained a laptop and personal items, and ran back to the car, which drove away.
According to the alert, the car was an older model, possibly manufactured between 1970 and 1980, and the man was between 5 feet 7 inches and 5 feet 10 inches tall, was about 170 pounds in weight and was wearing a black T-shirt with pictures on the front. The student told RUPD that she did not make contact with the car's driver.
Whitehead said that the Houston Police Department, which is investigating the incident, did not have any similar suspect descriptions.
Whitehead said that students should be aware of their surroundings and avoid walking alone in poorly lit areas at night.
Whitehead said the department is also in the process of hiring a new police officer and another dispatcher.
"A lot of people get into policing in a spirit of adventure," Whitehead said. "I'm looking for people in a spirit of service."
Wiess College senior Luis de las Cuevas said that, although he thinks the campus is pretty safe, the additional security officers will be a good thing.
"You can never be too safe," Cuevas said. "[However,] there's always some risk."
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