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Policing a new state

January 13th, 2014

As students and faculty make their way to their classes this spring, one major figure will leave this semester.

Roger Stearns, who has been the chief of police of UTPA since April 2009, is resigning this spring. After five years with the University, he will be taking the position as the new chief of police, effective Feb. 1, 2014, for Kennesaw State University, located just 20 miles north of Atlanta in Kennesaw, Ga. Much like UTPA, KSU is going through a merger with Southern Polytechnic State University. Reasons behind Stearns’ move are the many positive opportunities that will come for Stearns at his new position.

“In considering compensation, benefits and quality of life for my family, this is a positive personal and professional move,” Stearns said. “I have the opportunity to lead a much larger police force, and I look forward to increasing services, programs and partnerships with the campus community.”

Stearns further elaborated on the personal benefits from the move.

“From a family perspective, there is a good quality of life in the area where my family and I could spend time together,” Stearns said. “The move to KSU allows my family to live in a major metropolitan area with excellent K-12 schools for my boys and greater employment opportunities for my wife.”

While it is still not clear who will be replacing Stearns, the UTPA Police Department has seen many changes under his direction. This includes, but is not limited to,  the increased use of technology, such as the MyPD app to keep students informed and the establishment of many programs and services.

Additionally, the UTPA Police Department, consisting of more than 60 employees Stearns oversaw, was one of the 25 higher education institutions recognized as a model program by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators and National Crime Prevention Council in 2012.

“We became a much more proactive agency that opened its doors to a lot of partnership opportunities with the campus community,” Stearns said. “The changes I focused on in the department were leadership development, training of the staff and increasing the types and qualities of services provided.”

Stearns began his campus law enforcement career at the University of Arkansas, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in communications. Since then, he has amassed more than 20 years of campus law enforcement experience, serving the police departments of the University of Arkansas, University of Texas at Dallas and Vanderbilt University as a senior communications officer, police sergeant and police major, respectively. Additionally, Stearns is the recipient of many honors from previous positions and UTPA, such as the President’s Excellence Award and Success Profile of the Year in 2013.

Stearns said his greatest joy during his time as police chief was serving the people and seeing advances to the University.

“Seeing the University… and police department develop was my favorite part of being here,” Stearns said. “I’ve been proud of being able to be here and be a part of the progression that UTPA has made…every year that I’ve been here, the police department and University has been better than it was the year before, and I’m proud to have been able to work under the very positive leadership team here.”

Upon his exit, Stearns hopes that the relationship between the community and police department continues to flourish for mutual benefits of both parties, with programs such as the Citizens Police Academy, Law Enforcement Explorers and Community Emergency Response Team training.

“I encourage the community to continue being proactively and positively involved with the police department and our services,” Stearns said. “The more participation we have from the community, the safer our community is and the more effective we are as a law enforcement agency.”

UPDATE: According to Vice President for Business Affairs Martin Baylor, the formal search process for Stearns’ replacement will be held off due to the pending changes with the new University, UT-RGV, and until a better idea of the organizational structure for the new University is reached. Until then, Assistant Chief of Police James Loya will be interim Chief of Police in the coming days.

 

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Policing beyond the sidewalks

November 14th, 2013

Local FBI agents discovered a stash house holding 71 undocumented immigrants in Alamo Oct. 16 and asked for help from the U.S. Border Patrol, the Alamo Police Department and the UTPA Police Department, according to The Monitor.

While some may think the UTPA police department focuses its efforts solely on campus, Chief of Police Roger Stearns explained they are actually state police officers with jurisdiction that covers any county with property owned, operated or leased by The University of Texas System.

“I think that there is a misperception, not just by students, but by faculty, staff, visitors and by the public, that our responsibilities as police officers ends at our sidewalk, and that’s not true,” Stearns said. “We have the same responsibility as any law enforcement office and that responsibility certainly extends beyond the sidewalks of the University.”

The UTPA police staff consists of 48 full-time employees of which 23 hold police officer positions. Many on this team are also UTPA alumni. While these officers must keep up physical fitness and firearm skills, Stearns also noted that regular maintenance training helps keep officers prepared for active shooter and other violent threat situations.

Stearns, the chief of University police for nearly five years, explained that the campus police department comprises a highly trained tactical team that has trained with SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) and the Texas Department of Public Safety. His team members have also trained to be an advanced tactical team at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

FLETC is a key component for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that has trained more than one million law enforcement agents since its start in 1970. Serving officers from rural, state and government organizations, FLETC also focuses on providing training for small community police staffs, such as the UTPA Police Department.

While the skills learned by UTPA police through these agencies are practiced on campus, they are also used across the Rio Grande Valley with no limits on their outreach, Stearns said. These skills were present when UTPA police raided an illegal immigrant stash house and aided local authorities in finding similar stash houses in nearby areas.

When surrounding cities need help with cases, the UTPA Police Department is on the list of officials to call, Stearns said. In July 2012, UTPA police were called to aid an investigation by Edinburg police, who discovered human remains near a drainage ditch off South Raul Longoria Road.

“We have property all the way from Rio Grande City in Starr County all the way out to (the UTPA) Coastal Studies Laboratory  at South Padre Island,” said the former Vanderbilt University patrol major. “We extend the entire distance of the RGV.”

In the event of an active shooter situation on campus or a stash house raid in any part of the Valley, Stearns feels his staff has the proper training to serve and protect the more than 20,000 faculty, staff and students on campus, as well as aid local law enforcement agencies.

“What we want to provide to the University community is a professional law enforcement agency,” Stearns said. “We actively engage in training and we actively engage in providing the same services that you would expect from any larger municipality.”

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Learning the name of the law

September 12th, 2013

Students eagerly listened as they were taught about misdemeanors, and voiced their questions to the corporal in front of them at the first Police Explorer Academy. The event, which was open to all majors, was hosted by the UTPA Police Department from Aug. 19-22.

Providing students 30 hours of instruction on police work, this program gave those interested in this area of work a chance to go through different scenarios, such as handling high-risk traffic stops and responding to bomb threats. The purpose of the program was to provide students with some experience for a future career in policing, according to Roger Stearns, chief of the UTPA Police Department.

“Training topics include, but are not limited to: patrol procedures, law, report writing, investigations, crime prevention and arrest procedures. The training curriculum has both classroom and practical scenario components,” Stearns said.

Possible scenarios include a burglary in-progress or an active shooter, Stearns said. In addition, the police department hopes to have this event every year in August, as well as during winter break.

“I would highly recommend the academy to other students. It is an interesting program that helps you get involved with those on campus and the community,” said Esther Olivares, a junior criminal justice major and an attendee of the academy.

Students interested in the program can join at any time during the semester through recruitment drives held by the police department. As long a students is in good academic standing, which means they are not on academic or disciplinary probation, and pass a background check, they can participate.

“Combined, the 60 hours of training will earn the student their Law Enforcement Training Recognition Ribbon and will allow the students to regularly participate in the Ride-Along program with our patrol officers,” he said.

The Ride-Along program gives students an opportunity to ride along with officers while they are on patrol. Non-explorers, those who are not in intermediate training in the Explorer Program, can ride with police officers if they pass a background check. These rides are limited to one ride every six months for non-explorers. Officers are trained in Explorer Program policies, to make decisions if a problem arises when the participant is riding along, according to Stearns.

The Police Explorer Academy could benefit UTPA’s 600 criminal justice majors that need experience in the field. The job market for a career in criminal justice, policing specifically, has a 7 percent projected increase in employment from 2010 to 2020. This is slower than average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, making jobs more competitive for students looking into this branch of criminal justice.

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Broncs host dream team

September 5th, 2013

The Bronc baseball team partnered with Stepping Stones Home Care/ Rehabilitation and the Pharr Police Athletic League Saturday for the inaugural Dream League T-Ball Experience, a baseball game for special-needs children.

The event was free to the public at the Edinburg Baseball Stadium and it was inspired by The Miracle League of San Antonio, which holds similar events.

The community banded together with the help of UTPA, the Broncs and undefeated world championship boxer Omar Figueroa Jr. Although Figueroa Jr. was not presnt, he was represented.

“Our baseball program is honored to be a part of this Dream League event,” Head Coach Manny Mantrana said. “The Dream League allows for children with special needs and their families to participate in sports and we are very blessed to be able to help out in any way we can.”

Not only did the coaches take part, the players took their roles as guides seriously. According to sophomore infielder Edgar Cordon, each player was matched up with a child to run them through bases and show them how to “swing for the fences.” Edinburg native Cordon was partnered up with 3-year-old Davey Uria, who was diagnosed with spina bifida at birth and is paralyzed below the waist.

“I’ve never done anything personal like this,” Cordon said. “This was amazing. I mean, I nearly cried during that kid’s national anthem, and Little Davey here probably has to be one of the happiest kids I’ve ever met in my life. Like no fears, no nothing.”

Davey’s parents, Enrique and Val Uria, watched as their son rounded bases and played on the pitchers mound with Cordon.

“He loves to laugh and never lets anything get in his way,” said Enrique Uria. “He has had so many surgery’s, $1.5 Million so far, with no coverage from the insurance. We are truly blessed we have been able to afford it.”

Enrique Uria is the Spanish language pastor at The Family Church where sometimes Davey preforms in McAllen. Their strong faith in their beliefs match the conviction of the Stepping Stones Family.

J.J. Lugo, who works with Stepping Stones, was inspired by the success of the event. Originally, it was meant to be a small game hosted in Pharr, but with the outpouring of offers of help from local businesses, along with the offer from Mantrana and his players, it spiraled into a large event with a team of 20 children.

Lugo’s vision for the game was for special-needs children to have the same experience of playing sports that his children do.

“Pharr, that’s where I coach my son, for six years,” Lugo said. “I see some of these kids, the families. They go to therapy every day with their kids and they should also have the opportunity that I have. I have photos of my kids playing, trophies and game memories and they should have the same.”

As he looked around Lugo made it a point to say that the community welcomed the idea with open arms.

“It wasn’t much that I did, it was that everyone came together and said what can we do to help,” he said.

Not only was there help from the community but even from world lightweight titleholder Figueroa. Joel Garcia, who is Omar Figueroa Sr.’s assistant, was there to represent the Figueroa family. He raffled off a pair of boxing gloves signed by the champion, who is a Weslaco native.

“Panterita (Figueroa) loves to help the community,” Garcia said. “He couldn’t be here today because of some previous event, but it’s important for him to show support for these types of events.”

The community and UTPA’s baseball team came out in full force to support the children and their families. After every swing and rounding of the bases by the children who participated, medals were presented to them by folks from the Pharr Police Athletic League. Once the sun finally set and all the final photos were taken, the event came to a close.

The final words from the Stepping Stones coordinator reiterated the future hopes of this annual event and how it came to be.

“The ultimate goal is to start a league for (the children),” said Lugo. “Not just an annual thing. Everybody came together and opened their hearts and made it happen.”

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Body found off University drive

July 26th, 2013

Updated July 26, 4:08 p.m.

According to Lt. Oscar Treviño, preliminary autopsy results show no foul play is suspected.

Updated  July 26, 2013 2:19 p.m.

Lt. Oscar Treviño has confirmed that the body found was that of 90-year-old Ernesto Salinas who disappeared over a week ago. According to Treviño, Salinas was identified through clothing that he was wearing and personal artifacts that were in his possession. The police obtained the clothing and personal items description through Salinas’s family.

Original article posted July 26 at 1:17 p.m.

It was around 10 a.m. when police were dispatched to the 2700 block of W. University Dr. in Edinburg, in reference to a report of a possible body that was found underneath a bridge.

According to LT. Oscar Treviño, an investigator with Edinburg Police Department, the construction crew was in the ditch area this morning when they discovered the body.

Once officers arrived on scene they confirmed that it was the deceased body of an adult male.

According to Treviño the adult male was wearing dark clothing and no form of identification. It appeared that this person had been in the water for several days.

“We suspect this body had been under water and had just surfaced very recently,” Treviño explained. “We are still in the process of still identifying the body. We have a autopsy scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today.”

Treviño added that as of now, Edinburg P.D. are not confirming that the body found is that of 90-year-old Ernesto Salinas who disappeared over a week ago. Treviño explained that no one got close enough to the body to see or identify who this person was.

“As far as the police department is considered this is still an investigation,” Treviño said. “All we can say is we found an unidentified body. So we are waiting for a positive identification.”

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Using technology to reach students

May 2nd, 2013

The UTPA police department is making strides to bring students available information through the MyPD smartphone application. The app was made available Monday April 22 on Apple and Android markets at no charge.

The University’s Assistant Chief of Police James Loya said the application has many features that can keep the community informed with University news. Users will also have access to information, such as finding registered sex offenders and will be provided with the ability to place a quick call to a dispatcher.

According to a police department press release, the app was developed by Detective Peter Olson of the Peabody Police Department in Massachusetts. The app was brought to the University via a partnership with the UTPA Police Department and WiredBlue LLC, a company located in Peabody that looks to innovate and change police technology with new ideas and platforms.

“What’s pretty amazing about this product is that we pay $600 a year for this,” Loya said. “Local funds we have pay for this charge and it’s unlimited to anyone in the community.”

Loya said the application has many features that can keep the community informed with University news. Users will also have access to information, such as finding registered sex offenders and will be provided with the ability to place a quick call to a dispatcher.

Senior education major Gracie Campos said the app will be useful for students because it will be convenient when sorting fact from fiction.

According to Campos, students are almost always left out of the loop when it comes to dealing with rumors regarding potentially dangerous situations. In most cases, all the news they receive is from local news stations, which sometimes get facts wrong, she said.

“As students, we are important people on campus. With this app, we get straight facts instead of rumors,” Campos said. “This makes it easier for the campus and the police to inform students. We won’t have to be guessing about what’s going on.”

One of the features that Loya finds helpful is the new and improved way to submit a crime tip. When submitting the tip, the app will allow the user to upload a photo and if GPS is enabled, give the coordinates of the location, Loya said.

“We want to push this app onto our community,” Loya said. “It’s not just for students. People who live in other cities can download this and see what’s happening here.”

 

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‘Why me?’

April 25th, 2013

It happened in a matter of seconds, she said. According to Ana Elizondo, she reached to open her car door in a UTPA parking lot Sept. 25, 2012 and was taken.

Snatched from behind, with a hand gripping her mouth tightly, Elizondo initially struggled to break free from the stranger’s clutch, she told The Pan American. It wasn’t until she heard men’s voices threatening to harm her that she reverted to a calm state – her body going limp as she was dragged into her abductors’ vehicle in what was then Lot T2, at approximately 7:15 p.m.

They watched her for days, the alleged captors told her, targeting her at school because there were no cameras, according to an April 4 article in The Monitor.

A witness called in a report to UTPA Police Department stating they saw a female forced into a vehicle in Lot T2, now named K2, with one of two suspects covering her mouth.

Elizondo was released by her captors unharmed the morning of Sept. 27. Seven months later, she decided to speak to the public about her ordeal for the Social Justice & Peace Conference 2013 April 22.

The conference, sponsored by the UTPA Department of Criminal Justice, focused on multiple forms of kidnapping. The event featured the documentary Kidnappings: Expect the Unexpected, safety tips sessions and presentations from victims.

“As I speak to more people…I start to realize it’s very common and that’s the only reason I decided to go public because there’s no point in hiding if everybody is in danger,” the psychology graduate student told The Pan American. “I want to speak out about it. I want to talk about the whole experience because I think it’s a good story to tell.”

The accused kidnappers were identified as 20-year-old Milton Treviño, 28-year-old Onan Herrera-Sanchez, 35-year-old Miguel Angel Cruz Navarro and his 36-year-old wife Elva Mendoza Navarro. Sanchez and Treviño are facing aggravated kidnapping for ransom charges and a federal criminal complaint accusing them of hostage-taking, according to The Monitor. The Navarro couple was also indicted by the state grand jury on the first-degree felony charge in January.

Elizondo will not give certain details about the events due to the pending case, she said.

THE ABDUCTION

While blindfolded, Elizondo was moved from location to location until the alleged abductors finally arrived at their destination. She awoke the next day, still blindfolded, on the ground outside. She said she had to remind herself to stay calm.

“I cried when I was alone because I didn’t want to show them that I was weak,” she said in an interview with The Pan American. “I wanted to show them I was strong and that they weren’t affecting me in any way. I didn’t want to show them that side of me so I held in a lot of emotions.”

She treated them respectfully, she said, asking them questions about themselves, some of which they didn’t answer, according to the abductee.

“I was very nice to them,” Elizondo said. “I cracked jokes with them to kind of get out of the situation mentally. I guess he saw me as a good person, and I think that’s why I wasn’t physically harmed.”

Elizondo was initially held for $160,000 ransom, which her father found out from a phone call 15 minutes after a UTPA police officer was dispatched to the crime Sept. 25, according to The Monitor.

Ultimately, she said it was her attitude that helped set her free. Treviño let her go upon hearing his cohorts were planning to kill her, according to The Monitor.

The kidnappers called the father again the morning of Sept. 27, and soon after, he picked her up at the alleged abductor’s home in Las Milpas where she was being held.

SPEAKING OUT

Elizondo never wanted to publicly tell her story for safety reasons, but April 22 she stood at the podium in the UTPA Ballroom, recounting some events of her abduction and taking questions.

Elizondo explained during her presentation that since her kidnapping, she hasn’t seen much of a difference in safety precautions on campus.

However, Director of University Relations Sandra Quintanilla explained that lights were installed in the lot where the incident took place and cameras, which were ordered prior to the incident, were installed in lots F, C and G. Both will continue to be installed throughout campus. In addition, campus police patrols have increased.

Elizondo offered tips to the audience at the conference in case anyone were to find themselves in the same situation. She said it’s important to pick up on clues such as tattoos or scars on the attackers.

“Try and remain calm because if you’re calm, you can remember more,” Elizondo said. “If you’re in that state of panicking, you’re not going to remember anything. I don’t really remember much when I was panicking, but when I was calm that’s when I remembered more.”

Rich Roth, an expert in the area of threat and risk assessment who also spoke at the event, said the best way to help in these situations is for people to be alert and aware.

“One of the biggest things that came out of this was the fact that there was a witness, someone that reported it and knew where to report it,” said Roth, the executive director and chief operating officer for Counter Technology Inc. “If you want to to talk about something that’s a lifesaver, that’s really a lifesaver.”

Many of the audience members blamed the University police for Elizondo’s abduction. However, Elizabeth Wills, a 20-year-old junior, was sitting in the front row during Elizondo’s speech didn’t feel like much could have been done to prevent it.

“When you look at safe, you’re never really safe. It doesn’t matter where you go, there’s always something that could happen,” the Edinburg native said. “Just because there’s cameras doesn’t mean it stops anything from happening. Do I feel safe? No, but I don’t feel safe anywhere. Not just on campus.”

Elizondo said she doesn’t hold a grudge against campus police.

The McAllen native admitted it was difficult trying to get back into the swing of things. Elizondo became jumpy at the sound of footsteps behind her, looking over her shoulder to keep an eye out for anything coming her way. Although she explained the severity of her jitters have lessened, minor things such as a flashlight beam still haunt her.

“A lot of kidnappings are happening more and more, I’ve been reading up on that. It just reminds me so it’s something I can’t really let go of,” Elizondo said.

According to Carlos Campbell, a presenter at the conference, each year over 45,000 cases of kidnappings are reported, but that number represents 15 percent of abductions that happen in the United States yearly.

The day after Elizondo was released, she returned to school and was ready to get back into her regular routine. Even though she was a victim of kidnapping, she works to push forward in life and hopes to graduate in August 2013.

“I’m just trying to live my life. I’m very friendly and outgoing even to this day,” she said. “I’ll talk to a random person. People tell me, ‘You never learn. That’s why you get kidnapped.’ But I’m sorry, I’m not going to change who I am.”

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Digging up the past

March 21st, 2013

 By the end of the March 2, students and faculty of the anthropology department had located a portion of a human sacrum, a triangular bone at the base of the spine, a small portion of arm bone and a few other smaller human bones while assisting Edinburg Police in a missing person case.

These osseous remains will be analyzed to determine if they belong to the missing person, and if so, might provide clues for cause of death.

 “This is the first time we were invited out to help the police department,” said Russell Skowronek, director of the Community Historical Archaeology Project with Schools (CHAPS) program. “We thought this was really a wonderful circumstance. At UTPA, we’re always trying to get experience for our students; to have hands-on sorts of activities.”

 Students went through the soil in two different ways. Soil was filtered using screens and shaken so most of it would pass through.  Anything too large to be sifted through would be captured by the screen. Other students placed soil on top of a tarp and went through it by hand.

The case began in June 2010 when 59-year-old Edinburg resident, Eleazar Delgado, was reported missing. He had been suspected of wandering off from his sister’s home on Sofia Avenue. Later it was speculated that he had left to be with family members in a different state, according to Oscar Trevino, a lieutenant with the investigations division of the Edinburg Police Department.

 “During the course of the investigation, we didn’t see any signs of foul play. There are sometimes where people just go missing and don’t want to be found, and this was not the first time he had gone missing before,” Trevino said. “He would take off and disappear and come back.”

 But in July 2012, Edinburg city crews cleaning out a drainage ditch on South Raul Longoria Road discovered a human skull and another piece of bone that was determined to be human. The surrounding soil was secured for investigation.

 “Our investigators went back to our police records and looked to the most recent reports of missing persons and they came across Mr. Delgado’s report,” Trevino said. “So they contacted his siblings and collected samples of DNA… extracted DNA from the bones we found (was compared) with Delgado’s siblings’ DNA. It was a match so we determined it was him.”

 In order to find any evidence of foul play, and to give closure to the family of the deceased, the police department contacted the University for help with this case. James Loya, assistant chief of police at the University, helped Trevino get in contact with the anthropology department.

 “It’s very common in other parts of the country where law enforcement, police departments, medical examiners and such to call in anthropologists to help in recovery of remains,”  said Skowronek, an anthropology and history professor. “Because when you think about it, most people who serve as coroners or medical examiners are trained as medical doctors. They’re trained in working with basically individuals in the flesh where archaeologists, anthropologists are trained in working with bones.”

 This is not the first time the anthropology department has helped other agencies. In May 2010 they assisted the National Park Service in studying Palo Alto battlefield in Brownsville. Miguel Gutierrez, a junior anthropology and history double major, assisted in that excavation and the most recent one with Edinburg Police. It was his first time working with human remains.

“You’re doing detective work. You’re trying to solve a puzzle and this deceased person that the police found has relatives, loved ones that he left behind,” said Gutierrez, the supplies officer for the Anthropology club. “ And to just contribute to the forming of that story, to see exactly how that happened, how that person died…it’s very intriguing.”

While this is the first time Gutierrez and other students and faculty in the anthropology department have helped in a criminal investigation, according to Trevino, it may not be the last.

“They were very helpful and we really appreciate their help, they were tremendous,” Trevino said. “The next time we do have a situation like this we will be reaching out to them again.”

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Dismounting bikes on crosswalks

March 7th, 2013

Due to an accident on Feb. 22 that involved a student cyclist getting hit by a truck on Sugar Rd., the University Police Department is working on a campaign to increase cyclist awareness on campus. This initiative requires cyclists to dismount their bicycles on all crosswalks.

As of Feb. 25, signs were placed near the the Sugar Rd. crosswalks to alert cyclists of the new implementation on campus. Starting Feb. 26, a crossguard, part of the UTPA Police, is stationed on the crosswalk near the Wellness and Recreational Sports Complex Monday through Friday from 9 a.m to 6 p.m. to ensure cyclist and pedestrian safety.

According to UTPA Chief of Police Roger Stearns, this is not a new rule as it is included in the Texas Driver’s Handbook Ch. 13: Bicycle Vehicle Laws and Safety.

Under the section of Bicycle Traffic Laws, a bicycle is considered a vehicle, meaning the person riding a bicycle has the same responsibilities as a driver operating an automobile.

While dismounting bicycles on crosswalks is not directly quoted in the Handbook, Stearns explained that some laws are vaguely written.

“When you’re on a street or a roadway and you’re on the bicycle, by law you’re a vehicle,” Stearns said. “So can a car drive across a crosswalk? No and neither can a cyclist.”

In other words, crosswalks are only for pedestrian use.

Dismounting bicycles is required on all crosswalks on and off campus, but University Police have directed the awareness initiative on Sugar Rd. due to the high number of cyclist activity on the west side of campus as it is the busiest traffic intersection, according to Stearns. The only exception to the state law would be in designated hiking and biking trails.

“It’s very dangerous for a cyclist to cross a busy street especially if the crosswalk is not at a lighted intersection to where they’re relying on vehicles to stop for them,” Stearns said. “In the amount of time it takes for a cyclist to get off the sidewalk and into an oncoming lane of traffic, it’s quick, quicker than the drivers in the vehicles are gonna be able to detect that the cyclist got in front of them.”

Stearns said he believes the chances of cyclists getting hit by a car is less likely when dismounting bicycles. It is also recommended that skateboarders dismount for their own safety since they have the same likelihood of being hit as a cyclist if they do not, Stearns said.

As of now, it is unsure whether the stationing of crossguards on Sugar Rd. will be permanent or temporary.

“Honestly, when I first saw the crossguard, I thought I was in elementary school again,” Sarahlee Flores, political science and history major said. “We’re in college now, I think it’s a stupid investment. Money should be spent on more parking space instead.”

Junior criminal justice major Benjamin Hirsch said he believes the dismounting of bicycles is a good thing.

“I just dismounted my bike when crossing the street, I’m not taking any chances,” the 27-year-old Alamo native explained. “Another concern of mine is when, for example, cars turn to the right using the bike lane. Something should be enforced for this issue.”

Shimin Cen, a senior general studies major, who’s familiar with similar bike regulations when living in France, is OK with the implementation.

“I’m fine with this even though it can be a hassle when I’m running late,” the 26-year-old Madagascar native said. “Cyclists have the same rights as a vehicle. For security reasons I prefer being responsible”

As for the future, Stearns is hopeful in the addition of bike lanes and signs to alert motorists of high pedestrian and cyclist areas.

“I’m very interested in any initiative or any ideas in regards to traffic safety,” Stearns said. “Ultimately we just want everybody to get from point A to point B safely.”

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Smoke at El Bosque

February 6th, 2013

Local police officers and firefighters responded to a call Wednesday from a resident at El Bosque, an apartment complex located close to the University. According to Fire Chief Shawn Snider, the resident reported the smell of smoke coming from one of their rooms.

The call reached the fire station at 6:09 p.m. with the first responders arriving at the scene four minutes later. When they got there, what looked like a pot of corn was sitting on the stove, smoldering, Snider said. The tenant of that apartment could not be reached Wednesday night.

No one was harmed, though residents that also live on the first floor evacuated their rooms.

“There was a distinct smell when we entered the building,” Snider said. “But there was no threat to the University.”

Though there was no true emergency, Fire Chief Snider would like to remind students to always have a plan of evacuation should anything ever occur. Some advice he gave was to make sure that smoke detectors are always functioning and that students who are living on the upper floors of an apartment purchase a hook ladder, a portable ladder that can latch onto the edges of windows or rails.

“Jumping out is not a plan. It’s a reaction,” Snider said. “You need to have a plan. Students need to think of their safety.”

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