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Another assault reported on American Tobacco Trail in Durham

A man was assaulted on Durham's American Tobacco Trail Tuesday evening, marking the 11th crime on the trail in 2012, police said.

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DURHAM, N.C. — A man was assaulted on Durham's American Tobacco Trail Tuesday evening, marking the 11th crime on the trail in 2012, police said. 

According to police, the man was jogging around 7:30 p.m. when he noticed four or five youths between 12 and 16 years old loitering on the trail between Otis Street and Fayetteville Road.

The jogger ran by them and continued down the trail, but as he was returning, the group assaulted him. Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said the youths threw things at the jogger and tried to trip him.

The man wasn't seriously injured and was able to get home, where he called police.

Six of the reported crimes on the trail this year have been assaults. There have also been four robberies and one case of indecent exposure, according to data provided by the Durham Police Department.

In 2011, five robberies, two assaults and six cases of indecent exposure were reported on the Durham portion of the trail.

"The simple assaults don't appear to be motivated by robbery. It appears to be motivated more by mischievousness and the locations where they find individuals who are clearly running by themselves," Lopez said.

The Durham Police Department has increased patrols in the area – both undercover and uniformed officers on foot and on bicycles – and is getting some all-terrain vehicles to help with the patrols. The department also is considering installing surveillance cameras along the trail.

Lopez said, however, that it's impossible for officers to be everywhere on the 7½  miles of the trail that run through Durham, so he asked that the public help identify groups of teens hanging out on the trail.

"We need to identify the individuals who are causing this, because we're not talking about a whole lot of people," he said. "We know that there are people in this community who know who they are."

Some Durham residents who live near the trail have written to Durham City Council members and other officials about recent crime on the trail, and many said they no longer use it.

Chris Vant Hof, who runs on the trail two to three times a week, said he thinks the number of crimes reported on the trail is small for the number of people who use it. He said the assaults won't keep him from his jogs.

"I usually go midday, so it's usually not (dangerous). I'm not very concerned about it," Vant Hof said.

Police recommend that people go on the trail in pairs, avoid groups that are loitering in the area and carry cellphones to report suspicious activity.

Anyone with information about Tuesday's assault is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 919-683-1200.


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