Durham, N.C. — Ten crimes have been reported on the American Tobacco Trial so far this year, compared with 13 for all of 2011, prompting concern among Durham residents and people who like to walk, jog or bike on the 22-mile trail.
The crimes include assaults, robberies and a flasher who exposed himself to several people last fall.
"It's very disconcerting to hear that when someone goes out for a run that they get hit in the back of the head," said Mindy Solie, a resident in the Forest Hills neighborhood.
Some of Solie's neighbors have stopped using the trail, and others have written to the Durham City Council to express their concerns about crime on the trail. Solie said she has worked with police for several years on crime issues, and officers are taking the issue seriously.
"This is a pride and joy of the whole city. Our American Tobacco Trail is a wonderful place for families, for diversity, for bikers, walkers of all ages," she said.
Durham police said they have increased patrols on the trail in recent months, including using some plainclothes officers. They declined to provide specific details of enforcement efforts so they wouldn't tip off criminals.
Nearby residents are finalizing plans on a "Take Back the Trail" day to send a message that they won't stand for crime on the trail.
"I want our neighbors to get back out there," Solie said. "I want people to keep using the trail because, otherwise, they win. The bad guy wins, and the good guy needs to win here."
Marian Staer said she rides her bicycle on the American Tobacco Trail at least three times a week. She said there are certain sections she will no longer visit because suspicious people hang out there, but she is determined not to be scared away.
"I'm not a scared person, so yes, I'll still use it," Staer said.
Police recommend that people who use the trail not walk alone at night and carry a cellphone to call 911 if they see anything suspicious or feel uncomfortable.