DURHAM — It could be another four weeks before the American Tobacco Trail gets an official citizens bicycle patrol.
Meanwhile, a man was attacked Monday, at least the ninth reported incident on the popular greenway since mid-May.
The man told police he was walking near Fayetteville Road and Woodcroft Parkway around 3:40 p.m. when a young man demanded money and punched him several times. The suspect fled without getting anything.
The man was treated for minor injuries, police said. He described the suspect as black, in his early 20s and 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 9 inches tall with a medium build. He was wearing a dark blue windbreaker and blue jeans. Police did not provide additional descriptive details.
Two weeks ago a woman reported being knocked down near Apex and Fargo streets. Before that, there had been four simple assaults, one sex offense and two robberies reported since May 14. All those occurred on the section from downtown just past Fayetteville Street.
Police have made three arrests, increased patrols, investigated installing video cameras and bought three utility terrain vehicles.
But Police Chief Jose L. Lopez says he does not expect to add an official citizens’ bicycle patrol until Oct. 29, or close to it, after encountering “unforeseen hurdles.”
The “Trail Watch” will be part of the established Citizen Observer Patrol. Eight patrol members seemed interested but none had “any experience or training on bicycles,” he wrote in a memo.
Putting untrained civilians into “areas where they face potential injury” would violate regulations and expose the city to “civil liability,” he wrote.
With that in mind, police met with the city-county Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee to find experienced cyclists interested in helping.
Dale McKeel, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator in the city transportation department, is arranging a “Crime Prevention and Bike Safety” training session Oct. 24, according to the memo.
One local resident has already organized a volunteer patrol that rides the trail two evenings a week. Debbie West undertook the patrol on her own, not knowing the police had a similar interest.
City Councilman Mike Woodard suggested a volunteer bicycle patrol in August, after attacks roused calls for the city to improve trail security.
Lopez has said police were working on the idea, but Woodard and other council members expressed frustration over lack of progress last month.