Safety concerns, patrols increase on American Tobacco Trail after assaults
Posted June 9
Updated June 11
Durham, N.C. — 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.