Durham citizens to 'take back' trail where two women assaulted

Monday, November 16, 2015
Citizens to take back trail where two women assaulted
Ellerbee Creek Trail

DURHAM (WTVD) -- As news of an attack on Ellerbee Creek trail spreads, so does the community outrage. Less than a week after a woman said she was choked to the point of unconsciousness and then sexually assaulted, frustrated Durham citizens are planning to patrol and protest.

Organizers are inviting the public to bring their flashlights and their voices to the Trinity Avenue entrance of the Ellerbee Creek Trail on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

"This is definitely a matter of concern for me personally," said Joanne Abel, a former Ellerbee Creek board member who's organizing the Take Back the Trail march.

"It's also very important to me that anyone who has experienced sexual violence realize that it is not their fault," Abel added. "The community supports them."

The Durham Trail Watch, a volunteer citizen group created in response to incidents on the American Tobacco Trail, is also taking a stand. They're already patrolling parts of the trail and encouraging others to join their ranks.

"If they want to take control and take back the trails, that's what the community trail watch group was founded on to begin with," said Gene Carleton, a trail watch coordinator.

PHOTO COURTESY: Durham Trail Watch

Since the trail patrols started in November 2012, more than 70 volunteers have donned yellow reflective vests as they bike and walk the American Tobacco Trail.

"We have made a difference on the Tobacco trail," explained Carleton. "We've put in more than 5600 patrol hours on Durham trails. And the assaults have dropped off."

With extra eyes and ears, organizers are hoping to do the same on the Ellerbee Creek Trail. Volunteers can apply online at the City of Durham website. A background check and training provided by the Durham Police Department is required.

"We're always on the lookout for anybody that's suspicious," said Carleton, adding that volunteers are trained to avoid confrontations and instead call for help.

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