Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Frustration #1: every year at the start of Spring, crime upticks on trails. Why aren't police proactive about it?

If you were to review news reporting about trails (shared use paths, used by bicyclists and pedestrians) in the DC area over the course of a year, for multiple years, you would see an increase in crimes reported every Spring.

So that's why recent crimes on the Metropolitan Branch Trail in DC ("'Violence for violence's sake is troubling,' says cyclist attacked by up to 15 youths" from the Post), Flawed Metropolitan Branch Trail Cameras Not Doing Much to Fight Crime," Washington City Paper, in Virginia ("Police investigate trail attacks in Fairfax, Arlington" from the Post), and Maryland don't surprise me.

What bugs me is (1) generally, local jurisdictions don't have security management plans for trails and (2) they don't increase patrols at the onset of Spring, to reduce the likelihood of crime.

The whole point about "problem-oriented policing" is to use data on crime patterns as a tool for interdicting/reducing crime.

This should be an issue for local police departments as well as the parks and/or transportation departments that manage trails.  And it is in Howard County/Columbia, Maryland, according to this ABC News story, "Horse patrols, police to keep paths safe."  From the article:

With the summer months here, the Howard County Police Department and Columbia Association are partnering to keep Columbia's 93.5 miles of pathways safe while people are enjoying the outdoors.

While police have not seen an increase in crime in these areas, these efforts are intended to increase police visibility and deter problems.

People using the pathways will have a new resource in an emergency to direct help to their exact location. The police department and Columbia Association, along with recreation and parks, have labeled all bridges on trails in the county to speed up emergency response.

New signs have been placed throughout the trail system with alphanumeric codes. When a caller connects to a 911 dispatcher in an emergency and provides a code, the dispatcher will see a marker on a computer map of that sign's location

Why is it that the Howard County Police Department understands, but that DC area police, parks, and transportation departments do not?

Besides the fact that this an annually recurring problem, with regard to the recurring problems with DC's Metropolitan Branch Trail is that the problems have been identified for a long time.

At a public meeting 6 years ago I made these same points, about the need for a security plan (only now is signage being put at some locations on the trail to assist in crime reporting, there are no mileage markers, no emergency phones placed on the trail, night-time lighting is inadequate, etc.) and other proactive measures.  The blog entry from 2010 was written because of limited response to these indicated problems, etc.

-- Sidewalks and Shared-Use Paths: Safety; Security; and Maintenance, University of Delaware
-- blog entry, "Shared use paths (trails) and safety and marketing," 2010
-- 2007 Washington Post article about a different issue with trails, lighting at night in the Fall and Winter, "Darkened Part of Park Trail Near Metro to Get Lighting"

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