Rails-to-Trails Deter Crime in Communities

| 5/16/2013 1:30:00 PM

Reposted with permission from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

Mom and daughter on rail-trailThat a new trail will bring crime to an area and increase public safety concerns is an often-used objection to trail projects, particularly in communities without relevant examples close by. However, a mountain of experiential and recorded evidence in fact demonstrates the opposite — that public pathways bring activity, ownership and care to areas once abandoned and neglected, and provide a deterrent to crime and anti-social behavior.

Nevertheless, opponents of trails, biking and walking continue to use this disproved red herring to block trails that have the potential to greatly improve their community.

So it was great to see the Kentucky New Era newspaper tackle the issue head on. As the community of Hopkinsville in southeast Kentucky pursues its rail-trail ambitions, the New Era editorial board decided to respond to concerns about crime and safety by going to straight to an expert. The paper conducted and published a discussion on trails, crime and safety with Hopkinsville Chief of Police Guy Howie, who had experience with trails relationship to crime during his time with the police department in Ocala, Fla.

His comments will not surprise those who have experienced the impact of public pathways in their communities, and echoes that of other law enforcement officers interviewed about the connection of crime to local trails. The full story online requires a subscription to view, so here's a sampling of Chief Howie's responses:

"What's there now, it's already being used by some for both legal and illegal purposes. Once we improve that and it's being utilized by law-abiding citizens, and it's maintained and kept up, the people who are using it for illegal purposes now aren't going to want to stay because they don't want to be discovered."

5/24/2013 9:45:11 PM

Great article! I had to travel a lot in my career. It was always my pleasure to get to an area where there were trails for walking, jogging and bike riding. I was once in a N. Carolina community which had no trails. I walked on the side of the throughfare for a short time. I stopped because it was so dangerous. To ride my bike meant to transport it to a park, unload it and then ride for a time before reloading it to go back to my residense. I was also harrassed by passers by. I always felt safe on designated trails throughout Fl., S. Carolina and Cal.. An extra bonus was to meet people with like interest. I hope that Kentucky and more states provides trails and pathways throughout in the future. By the way, Hopkinsville is a wonderful community in the South West area of Ky. Lets ride!

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