Local News

American Tobacco Trail robberies under investigation

Posted July 17, 2013

— Durham police are investigating a third robbery on the American Tobacco Trail in less than a month.

Investigators say a woman was rollerblading along the trail near Otis Street around 7:15 p.m. Tuesday when a man armed with a gun wearing a black T-shirt, red Adidas shoes and a black doo-rag robbed her of her cellphone.

It was the same general location where a man was robbed of his cellphone and music player on July 5.

A Durham police spokeswoman said Wednesday afternoon that two men walking on the trail the afternoon of June 18 were also robbed at gunpoint by two men.

The crimes are the first reported robberies on the trail this year. Last year, there were 13 reports of crimes, including robberies, simple assaults and indecent exposure.

Police have increased patrols in the area, and volunteers with the Trail Watch Program also keep an eye on the 7-mile stretch of trail that runs through Durham.

"It's frustrating to us to see this continue to happen, even though we are out there doing our best to put a presence out on the Tobacco Trail," said Gene Carleton, facilitator for the Trail Watch Program.

There's also a security camera at the trail's entrance at Blackwell Street.

American Tobacco Trail American Tobacco Trail robberies under investigation

Michael Goodmon, vice president of real estate for Capitol Broadcasting Co., which paid for the camera, said the company is in the planning process of installing anywhere from 10 to 20 additional cameras along the trail.

CBC, the parent company of WRAL, also owns the American Tobacco Campus in downtown Durham and uses its own security system to monitor the current camera 24 hours a day.

Goodmon said the company is working with the city of Durham to determine where additional camera should be installed.

Despite the three robberies this year, people were out biking and running along the trail Wednesday, including Linda Jeffries.

She said she bikes on the trail about five days a week and feels frustrated by the crimes, despite efforts by police and the community.

She doesn't know what else can be done.

"You can't be at every section of this trail at all times," Jeffries said. "I don't have any more ideas of what they can do at this point. But we, as trail uses, need to take a lot of the responsibility."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • theblazer Jul 19, 2013

    If people have do defend a public walking trail by saying it is "usually safe" then there is a problem. Those that want to use the trail have every right to do so without fear of crimes against them. Stop being soft on criminals and be able to take care of the problem yourself with overwhelming force. I would rather see a thousand articles about how some attacker was wounded/killed on the walking trail than one about an innocent victim being attacked/killed.
    Step up citizens, your pacifist attitudes are putting others at risk.

  • btneast Jul 18, 2013

    I rarely carry mace at any of these locations because I haven't ever felt a need to.

    Kind of scary, basing your safety on a "feeling"? Better to have mace and not need it, than to need it and not have it, don't you think? Also, the ATT, at least in the section under discussion, has never been safe. Durham has come a long way, and has a lot of good things going on.....now.....but there is still a LOT of areas that you really should not be running alone in.....more than you think.

  • amandamshaffer Jul 18, 2013

    As a runner of several years and a vocal advocate and resident of Durham, it really saddens me that the part of the Tobacco Trail that stretches from downtown to Southpoint is no longer safe. Nor has it been for about two years now. I still run there occasionally, but with one earbud out of my ears and a can of mace in my hand.

    However, I don't feel that this is a "Durham" problem. I run on the Ellerbe Creek Trail that is entirely within city limits, on a regular basis. I also run "the loop" at Duke's east campus, and make up my own routes on the streets of downtown, Walltown, and Stadium Park neighborhoods. I rarely carry mace at any of these locations because I haven't ever felt a need to.

    The police need to perform a deeper analysis as to why crime is concentrated in such a specific area. In the meantime, I will stick to downtown and enjoy the relatively empty and peaceful trails, since y'all still think that all of Durham is a crime-ridden hellhole.

  • OakRapp Jul 18, 2013

    Should be some good deals on used outdoor security cameras in local pawn shops shortly after CBC puts 'em up. Wise shoppers will check for bullet holes before buying, though.

  • bigdee015 Jul 17, 2013

    Someone needs to tell the bad guys it's illegal to carry a gun there. Let's ban all bad guys and the world will be safe.

  • rmsmith Jul 17, 2013

    Anyone in Durham needs to be able to protect themselves. When seconds count......... the police are minutes away.

    I carry a CCW cause a police office is too heavy to carry

  • cjw6105 Jul 17, 2013

    The biggest problem with the Trail is that it's in DURHAM.

  • ThatGuyYetAgain Jul 17, 2013

    OK, let’s review our take-aways! The Trail Watch program doesn’t work. Increased police patrols don’t work. Security cameras don’t work. “Take back the trail” feel-good events and self-congratulatory press releases don’t work.

    Everybody got that? Great!

    Fortunately there is something that might actually work and it was suggested by someone featured in this story who is quoted as saying “But we, as trail uses (sic), need to take a lot of the responsibility.”

    OK, so how to actually take some of that responsibility? Open carry. As in a firearm. Loaded and on your hip in plain view. Google it. If the bad guys see that you’re serious about protecting yourself, they’ll likely wait for the easy target coming right down the trail in a few minutes. You know, the guy or gal with the Prius with COEXIST and PBS stickers on the back bumper. These are the easy targets. These are the obvious targets.

    Choose to be one or not.

  • Realthoughts Jul 17, 2013

    So there is a description of what the man was wearing, is the any clue as to what race he might be? It is little hard for people to know to call in when they don't know if the man is White, Black, Hispanic,purple or green. It would be helpful along with what he is wearing.

  • Six String Jul 17, 2013

    Two robberies in a month. Hmmm. What about the previous 12 or so? They have let this get out of hand and now the criminals come and go as they please.