DURHAM — Police Chief Jose L. Lopez assured City Council members Thursday that his department is doing everything we possibly can to stop a rash of unsettling incidents on the American Tobacco Trail.
Lopez had reported on police efforts at Monday nights regular council meeting. After another incident on Tuesday, City Manager Tom Bonfield called on Lopez for another update at the end of the councils work session.
Im going out with a company next week to see about the feasibility of putting (video) cameras out there, Lopez said. He is also looking into lighting for the trail, he said.
Police are also organizing a Citizens Observer Patrol to put civilian volunteers out along the ATT on bicycles.
Were really putting (in) a lot of time, effort and energy, Lopez said.
Since mid-May, trail users have reported four simple assaults and two robberies to police.
Police have made three arrests: two juveniles, one in connection with an assault and the other with a robbery, and a 48-year-old man who was charged with simple assault with a sexual motive.
One of the juveniles was remanded to state custody, the other released to a relative in Orange County, Lopez said. The adult was jailed and released on bond.
This challenge has been presented to us not so much because weve got a whole lot of aggravated assaults or robberies happening on the trail, Lopez said, but because we have a community thats pretty much upset by it, concerned, and were addressing that concern.
Council Member Diane Catotti asked if legal measures would help police, such as a ban on loitering on the trail and requiring that users keep moving.
Thats something that should be looked at, said Lopez.
City Attorney Patrick Baker said he would be happy to talk about such ordinances, but, Youd have to be pretty creative with the loitering piece; thats not been a winner.
Councilman Mike Woodard urged Lopez to move quickly on the citizens patrol. He said he has heard from residents near the trail and from the Durham Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission that they are ready to go.
They want a way to get engaged, because they have ownership of this trail, Woodard said. Lets let them step up ... and help us solve this problem.
Mayor Bill Bell asked Lopez if he was incensed at all that this has happened.
Lopez replied, Im always upset that anything like this happens. ... As far as being incensed, I try not to make it personal.