RUPD’s Cordova offers safety tips

Don’t leave a shopping bag on the seat or floor of your unoccupied car – even if the bag is empty. A potential thief doesn’t know if there’s anything in the bag, so just the sight of the bag could lead to vandalism and theft.

A shopping bag on a car seat can tempt a thief even if the bag is empty.

“You don’t want to come back to your car and see the window smashed in,” Capt. Paul Cordova told employees who attended a Brown Bag Event Dec. 2 at the Rice University Police Department (RUPD). He noted that burglary of cars has become more common than stealing cars.

Reducing the opportunity and temptation for theft was just one of the tips Cordova shared in his talk about maintaining public safety on and off campus.

“Be aware of your surroundings and alert to any signs that something may be wrong or out of place,” he said. If a stranger seems to be scoping out the area you’re in, Cordova recommended that you “make a conscious effort to make eye contact.” A potential criminal might not approach you once they realize that you’ve seen them and could be a witness.

People should park in areas where there is good lighting and close to heavy traffic. “The closest parking space may not be the best parking space,” Cordova said. “Criminals don’t like being seen.”

Paul Cordova

Cordova cautioned about texting or reading emails on your smartphone while walking, especially at night, when the light from your phone makes it obvious that you’re not paying attention to what’s going on around you.

For similar reasons, he advised against wearing headphones or ear buds while you’re out walking. “You have your vision, but you can’t hear what’s behind you, and that’s a safety problem,” he said.

Cordova recommended that robbery victims give the assailant what he or she wants if the assailant is holding a weapon. “If they just want money or your belongings, let them have it,” he said. “But if they’re trying to abduct or harm you, go ahead and resist.”

He emphasized the importance of notifying RUPD as soon as possible if you’ve been the victim of a crime on campus. The blue light emergency phones on campus provide direct access to RUPD, which can also be reached at 713-348-6000. A timely tip can help RUPD find the criminal and also alert others on campus via text if they’re in danger of becoming a victim too.

Employees and students should keep their bikes locked up and register them with RUPD. If RUPD has the make, model and serial number of a stolen bike, they can check with local pawn and bike shops to see if anyone sold the bike to them, which can help facilitate recovery and identify a suspect. “And if we find an abandoned bike, we’ll know who the owner is,” Cordova said.

He showed a video called “Run, Hide, Fight” that gave tips on what to do if you’re in a building where a shooter is on the loose. The No. 1 priority is get out of harm’s way by exiting the building. If you can’t escape safely, find a place to hide and then lock the doors, turn out the lights and silence the ringer on your phone. If your life is at risk and you cannot avoid an encounter with the shooter, fight as a last resort and commit to taking down the shooter. A chair, a fire extinguisher or other object that can be picked up can be used as a weapon. The video noted that first responders’ mission is to stop the shooter, so it is unlikely they will stop to treat the injured until they’ve prevented the shooter from harming more people.

Cordova noted that RUPD is a full-service police agency. Police officers patrol the campus by car and bike and also on foot. “We investigate all types of crimes,” he said.

For more info on RUPD, including registration for the Citizens Police Academy, visit

The Brown Bag Event was organized by the Staff Development Committee.


About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.