Cruz takes helm at UTRGV police department

EDINBURG — The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley welcomed its new chief of police with a badge pinning ceremony here Tuesday.

Adan Cruz, the new chief, has served as assistant chief of police at the university since 2017 and took over for former police chief Raul Munguía on Feb. 21.

Cruz, who grew up in Los Fresnos and graduated from Los Fresnos High School in 1987, began his law enforcement career as a highway patrolman in Weslaco in 1990, retiring from the Texas Department of Public Safety almost 27 years later. He joined the UTRGV Police Department shortly after.

“The badge is a symbol of the nobility and honor of this profession,” UT System Director of Police Michael J. Heidingsfield said before Cruz was awarded his new badge. “It represents who we are, what we are, the values that we hold and why we do what we do day in and day out, regardless of what others may have to say. It is a distinguishing opportunity for me to present to Adan this badge for pinning and recognizing him as the new chief of police.”

After receiving his badge, Cruz complimented Munguía and the state of the department.

“We are not going to forget all the good work and the good foundation and everything that’s been ready before us,” he said.

Cruz said he’s looking forward to building on that foundation as chief.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to lead the UTRGV police department. I’ve worked for three years as the assistant chief of police here and I’ve got to work under the guidance and in partnership with chief Raul Munguía, who’s retired,” he said. “I look forward to building on the programs that we’ve already started and continuing to build through community engagement programs and our relationship with the campus community.”

Specifically, Cruz wants to put more emphasis on a high-tech solution he says will increase safety on campus.

“I think it’s very important that we really push a new application that we recently started, probably within the last year or two. It’s called Campus Shield, it’s a smartphone app that is downloaded for free, the directions for how to get it are on the UTRGV website,” he said. “It allows someone to activate it, call for help with the press of one button; it rings directly to our police communications office where a police officer can be dispatched immediately. If you activate that function, we can actually track you, we can see where you are.”

According to Cruz, similar technology is being used at universities across the country and the app can also be used to notify friends if your commute is taking too long.

“You can set it up to where you can set up a timer from your library to your dorm room, and set up a friend that’s associated with it, and that way if you take too long to get from point A to point B, that app will alert your friend and let them know that you’ve taken too long,” he said. “I think it’s a function that we really need to push, an app that we really need to push. The more people we have on it, I think it would really increase the safety and security of our campus community.”

Cruz also said UTRGV’s 51 commissioned officers have been taking steps to become more visible on campus, on patrol and fostering relationships with the community.

“We like to encourage our police officers to patrol the interior of the campus. We’ve increased our bike patrol, we have more officers certified to serve on bicycles than we’ve ever had. We’ve increased our footpatrol hours, and also just our community engagement programs, because it’s important to build a good working relationship with the community, so that way they have that confidence that they can come to us and share information and we can help them,” he said.