Police presence increases on American Tobacco Trail

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There is heightened safety awareness on the American Tobacco Trail after a spike in crimes.

Durham's portion of the American Tobacco Trail is very popular. It's used by commuters, families out for fun, and solo exercisers.

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"It's really calm out here," said Juan Jaime, who drives from Hillsborough to use the trail. "You're out here by yourself. It's a nice trail for bikes, walking, shade. It's just convenient to come here and walk."

But reports of flashers and other crimes along the trail surface from time to time. And with a recent spike in those reports, police are beefing up their presence in the area.

"I am impressed with the city of Durham's efforts to continually improve the experience," said Mark Lazenby, a cyclist.

Some victims say the incidents happen in isolated areas with heavy vegetation.

Tom Dawson of the city's parks and recreation department says crews are busy focusing on trail safety.

"Eliminating hiding spots, controlling access where people enter onto the trail," Dawson said. "We can control the vegetation which, as you know in the South, is an ongoing effort to control vegetation, kudzu being our lead opponent."

Despite those efforts, there are still crimes here. There's evidence of a recent break-in: broken glass in the parking lot.

"I leave my car out here all the time, thinking nothing's going to happen to it," Jaime said. "I even leave my wallet in here, because I don't even need it when I go out there."

Police say avoid leaving valuables in cars, especially where people can see them.

Dawson said police now patrolling the trail get help from a Durham community trail watch - volunteers who report problems or suspicious activity.

"I think it's a great resource," Dawson said. "You should get out there, bring your friends, bring a phone. If you see something untoward, call it."

And that, he said, helps authorities keep everyone safe as safe as possible on the American Tobacco Trail.

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