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UTPA Students Struggle with Sense of Vulnerability

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Posted: Sep 27, 2012 6:02 PM

Updated: Sep 27, 2012 11:51 PM

EDINBURG - A kidnapping at the University of Texas-Pan American left many students feeling vulnerable.

"My friend and I were approaching the parking lot when we saw four, five cop cars. We saw a bunch of books on the floor ... we saw glass ... that was scary," UTPA student Aracely said.

Tuesday's crime scene on parking lot T-2 was a testament that something major had happened, Aracely said.

"I found out what happened at 9:30 p.m. That's when I got the text," she said. Her alert text message from the university was delivered more than two hours after the incident, she said.

"I was afraid and in total shock and upset at the same time because of lack of police security and lighting," Aracely said.

"I'm at the education building, (and) no matter what exit we take, it's dark and there are bushes ... anybody can be hiding (there)," she said.

UTPA Police Chief Roger Lee Stearns did not want to comment on the details of the kidnapping. He said it would hamper the investigation and compromise the safety of his officers.

He showed CHANNEL 5 NEWS where the victim's vehicle was parked when she was kidnapped.

"They came up from behind, grabbed her and pulled her into their vehicle," Stearns said.

He spent 46 hours in a command center trying to get the student back.

He returned to the parking lot Thursday. Stearns said he needed to be there for the students.

"What are the concerns of our community ... what is it about this location that would help the students here feel safer," he said.

Stearns said the university already set up more temporary lights around the parking lot where the kidnapping happened. He said a new surveillance system will be installed at every lot. He said the lot where the incident happened is new and just opened in August.

"We are putting more police patrols ... at the time of the kidnapping there was not a patrol here," he said.

Stearns said he knows students wanted more information, but the course of the investigation prevented them from releasing details.

"I was thinking about where she might be ... what we needed to do to get her home safely," he said.

For Aracely, the sense of vulnerability will not fade easily.

"How do I know they're still not out there ... that it's not going to happen again?" Aracely said. "To this day, I don't feel safe going to school."

Topics: utpa, edinburg, kidnapping, students

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