Local News

Safety concerns, patrols increase on American Tobacco Trail after assaults

Posted June 9, 2014
Updated June 11, 2014

— After three reported assaults on the American Tobacco Trail, each within the last week and all within a mile of each other, safety concerns and police patrols have increased.

The first assault was reported on June 5 after a man told police he was riding his bike between Otis Street and Fayetteville Street at about 12:30 p.m. when a teenager punched him, knocking him off his bike. The teen did not say anything to the victim and did not attempt to rob him, police said.

The assailant was walking with three other teens who did who did not participate in the assault, police said.

The second happened at about 1 p.m. Friday near Pilot Street. A man and woman were walking when they were approached by four teens. One of the teens asked to use the man’s cellphone. After the man said no, he was punched in the face several times by the group, which took the man’s cell phone and iPod. The man was treated and released from a hospital.

The third incident was reported shortly after 1 p.m. Monday after a woman saw five teenagers attempt to assault a bicyclist, who was able to get away, near Pilot and Fayetteville streets.

Assaults and other crimes are not new on the trail, but Durham police assure residents that it is safe.

"We are out there," said Durham police Capt. Patrice Andrews. "We will continue to be diligent and patrol the trail."

The recent assaults led cyclist Ben Keller to rethink his course.

"I did take notice of that," he said. "So I might have gone up there today but I'm not."

For trail regulars like Elena Popowitch and her running group, where the assaults occurred are often areas of concern.

"I realized it wasn't where I went so I was a little less concerned," she said.

Some on social media have suggested closing the trail, something Andrews disagrees with.

"If we don't use the trail then they've won," she said. "If you want to give your trail up to the criminals, that's unacceptable."

Anyone with information about any of the assaults is asked to contact Inv. J. Locklear at (919) 560-4415, ext. 29309 or CrimeStoppers, which pays cash for anonymous tips leading to arrest in felony cases, at (919) 683-1200.

Durham police offered the following tips for trail-goers:

  • Call 911 to report any suspicious activity.
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
  • Walk in well-lit areas that are not isolated. 
  • If you are being followed, get away fast, change directions, and head toward a safe location.
  • Carry a personal alarm with you to deter potential attackers.
87 Comments

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  • iopsyc Jun 11, 2014

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    Yep, thanks for the correction

  • Bill of Rights Jun 11, 2014

    These teenaged hooligans are playing with fire. One of these days they're going to pick a fight with the wrong person, and they'll find themselves on the receiving end of some high speed lead projectiles.

  • Imma Annoid Jun 11, 2014

    What did the politicians think would happen if they built a trail in a city with such a high crime rate?

  • nonPC Jun 11, 2014

    just bulldoze the neighborhoods around it...and raise the property taxes till it is not affordable.

  • Billy the Kid Jun 11, 2014

    I would stay off the trail before defending myself there with a gun. You don't want to get Zimmerman'd.

  • 68_dodge_polara Jun 11, 2014

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    No longer true. It's legal.

  • yageldawg2 Jun 11, 2014

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  • Mods Hate Me Jun 11, 2014

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    This is amusing coming from you. With the way you carry on about banning guns all the time, the american tobacco trail should be a utopia for you. Guns are banned on the trail so it's the one place in Durham where people should be able to go without the fear of guns. Instead, the criminals know this too, so it's an easy target area. I've barely got a reason to visit Durham, and there's no way you'd catch me on that trail.

  • Joseph Smith Jun 11, 2014

    To be honest the Durham PD are pretty inept. The problem on the ATT has been going on for a while. A 'sting' operation could round up a bunch of perps.
    Just have someone small chatting on a nice new iphone 5 wearing the latest Air-jordans right where the attacks have occurred. The jail would be loaded in a day.

  • Objective Scientist Jun 11, 2014

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    Good statements, good observations. I agree. Limited sight distance is problematic. Esp. when riding a bike... you can be "right on" a gang of perps very quickly and little, if any, opportunity to turn around and/or to evade them. With regard to not being able to be seen from a busy street... perhaps cutting back some trees, etc. would normally be helpful, but I'm not sure it would in that particular part of town - the people likely to see you are not very likely to call for help even if they see you in trouble... the perps that form those gangs live in that area!

    Redesign? I believe the solution is most likely not "redesign" but reroute. As long as the Trail runs through that part of town with those communities one or both sides of it... it will be high-risk to pass through it!

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