Students on Alert After Attempted Smuggling at UTRGV
BROWNSVILLE – A foiled drug smuggling attempt in Brownsville has University of Texas Rio Grande Valley students on high alert.
U.S. Border Patrol says an alleged drug smuggler got away from agents by running into a busy area of the university campus.
Parking lot B-1 at the Brownsville campus has a constant flow of students coming and going. It's also just feet from the Rio Grande and a portion of the border wall.
UTRGV Police Chief Raul Munguia told CHANNEL 5 NEWS that on Monday, a group of alleged drug smugglers was apprehended in the area. One got away from Border Patrol agents by hiding out in the parking lot.
On Tuesday, students received a crime alert letting them know what happened.
Jennifer Martinez, a junior studying criminal justice, says she’s still on edge since B-1 is the parking lot she uses.
"There's been incidents where they do hide in between the cars, and you have to – I guess just be watching, looking and be aware that it does happen. And not say, 'Oh well we're at school.' No, it can happen anywhere," she said.
The crime alert described the suspect as a 17-year-old male wearing a blue shirt and jeans.
Student Azul Barrientos is concerned about smugglers using this as a tactic near campus.
"Yeah, you throw a backpack on, and then you're just another student walking on campus," she said.
Munguia said this is a tactic they are well aware of. He said they have a strong partnership with the Border Patrol to try to minimize these types of events on campus.
It's a unique situation, he added, since UTRGV Brownsville is the only campus in the nation located right along the border.
Authorities are always watching this area, he said.
"The students don't realize that along the border fence, we have security cameras and we do monitor those security cameras," Munguia said. "Also we share that view with Border Patrol."
He said there are plans to add more officers, including officers on bike and on foot.
"It's going to give us the ability to shift our schedules to where certain hours of the day when we have our peak times, as far as students here on campus, we're going to be able to significantly increase the patrols officer presence," the chief said.
That's good news for freshman Bryan Ponce who has noticed some of the most recent safety improvements.
"They just barely put the fences (around the parking lot) and I think that was a good improvement. But I don't know, I believe we need more cameras or something," Ponce said, "because, well, to be having that kind of activity inside the university, it's not proper."
He said students need to focus on their studies not whether they'll be safe when getting to school.
Munguia said if students ever feel unsafe on campus, they can contact campus police who will escort them to their destination.
He also urges students to report any suspicious activity. Suspicious activity can be reported to campus police at 956-882-4911.