Published: Aug 25, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Aug 23, 2012 06:06 PM
Are you a bit confused by Police Chief Jose Lopez’s dismissive remarks about the recent unpleasantness on the American Tobacco Trail? I am, too.
Lopez said last week that attacks and confrontations on the trail “are being magnified,” presumably via the media, and that “considering the amount of people that go on the trail, the incidents are minimal, the victimization is minimal.”
Tell that to District 3 Partners Against Crime. Another incident occurred Tuesday evening when loiterers attacked a male jogger, the 11th assault this year. Overall, crime in Durham may be down, but if you frequent the ATT, there’s nothing minimal about the rising number of assaults on the trail.
Since 2011, fear of violence on the ATT has spread quickly through the ranks of hikers, runners and bicyclists.
That’s why District 3 PAC is planning a “Walk the Trail with a Friend Day” to focus attention on trail safety, especially along the most-used segment of the old rail bed, which winds seven miles from Durham Bulls Athletic Park to N.C. 54 south of Woodcroft. Beefed-up presence
Now, Lopez isn’t entirely deaf on the safety issue. He held a press conference after the latest attack, is beefing up its presence on city trails and soon will begin using all-terrain vehicles as a force multiplier.
That’s all to the good (though purists likely will object to the noise of the little four-wheelers).
Meanwhile, however small Lopez scores the probability of violence on the ATT, he does recommend carrying a cellphone. That’s all to the good, too.
Here’s something all to the better: Go with another person, and pack heat, as in grizzly bear-strength pepper spray.
Sure, folks who savor the smell of gunpowder in the morning might be tempted to carry something more intimidating, say a .410-bore Taurus Judge (a handgun that fires the smallest shotgun round), but that could be asking for a lifetime of woe. See Zimmerman, George.
Besides, if the perp has a deadly weapon, he also has the initiative – and you don’t.Fact of life
It’s an unfortunate and telling fact of life that parks and recreational facilities such as the American Tobacco Trail become magnets for the worst among us. Since January 2011, at least 24 criminal offenses on the greenway have been reported to the police.
Thankfully, no one has been killed or badly injured – yet. But people are getting battered and bruised. As the Durham News’ Lewis Kendall reports, some who have met violence on the trail no longer use it.
One of them is Chris McLaughlin, mugged on the trail in December in broad daylight. And McLaughlin’s wasn’t an isolated incident: He was one of four people assaulted within a two-week period that month.
McLaughlin considers the trail not only dangerous but also a blight on the Bull City’s good name. He says his son won’t be learning to ride his bike on the trail.
McLaughlin is spot on. Durham doesn’t need – doesn’t deserve – more bad publicity in the police blotter.
Every person of good will has a vested interest in removing the fear factor from the trail. The police can’t do it alone. That’s why neighborhood support such as “Walk the Trail with a Friend” is so vital for its future.
In other words, Durham, use it or lose it. There’s safety in numbers.
Bob Wilson lives in southwest Durham.