It’s time to fix the crime problem on the ATT

Dear city:

You need to fix this.

What has the city actually done about the crime on the ATT, anyway? We now have one camera on the entirety of the trail, and that is owned and operated by Capital Broadcasting. And what police efforts have helped make the trail safer? That’s a legitimate question, because I’m not aware of any. Lopez’s metric for success is pretty low:

“We’re still working on the trail,” Lopez said. “But all in all, I think it’s a lot safer than it had been by virtue of the fact that we’ve had less incidents.”

A lot safer? Really? And which of your programs specifically contributed to this outcome? After a couple of good crime months (in the winter and/or torrential rain season, I’d add) it’s what, mission accomplished time?

I don’t understand the city’s philosophy with respect to crime on the ATT. This isn’t just about stopping these specific incidents – it’s about allowing the trail to be a centerpiece rather than a mark of shame on the city’s reputation.

The ATT should be something the citizens of Durham can take pride in, because it really is a wonderful achievement and a defining feature of the city. But I guarantee, if you mention the ATT to anybody right now, the first response will be about the crime problem. It’s not “wow, you have that great bike and ped commuter artery running all the way through town!” It’s “wow, Durham sure has a lot of crime!”

Here’s the other thing: every time this happens, more people are scared away from the trail, and that makes things even worse. It’s the tragedy of the commons, because the rational choice for an individual person is to avoid the trail, even though every set of eyes on the trail would make it safer. Every time there’s a headline like this, the trail’s safety is further endangered.

Bell’s statement specifically frustrates me, because it shows he completely fails to grok the significance of making the trail safer:

“It’s unfortunate that it happened there, but I don’t want to differentiate where crimes occur in our community,” Bell said. “[The victim] could have been attacked on Fayetteville Street or University Drive. I would take that just as seriously. To me, a crime is a crime, and where it occurs isn’t as important as the fact that it occurred.”

But Bill, where crime occurs does matter. The trail is important for Durham, and making it safe enough that people use it now will pay off down the road, as increased usage deters future crime.

It’s time to stop messing around. Put up the cameras. You can use my tax money – don’t wait for CBC to do it out of desperation at your failure to deal with the situation. Put bike cops out there in the hours surrounding dusk. Hell, you only need a couple of them, so you can specifically target the really bad areas (like where the recent events happened).

Make the ATT a point of pride, as it deserves to be. Don’t let this garbage continue to drag Durham down.

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