Despite the spike in Durham’s violent crime rate, the ATT seems to be a safe haven

I’m not going to lie, this is looking like a really bad year for crime in Durham. The crime rate was up through July, and there were several really awful events in August too. Even Duke is being hit, and the university is doubling their police patrols around central campus.

Things are bad enough that DPD chief Lopez is making the rounds, trying to reach out to community members. It’s difficult to see what he can realistically do; faith in the po-po is especially low across the country right now, and there’s no clear evidence that the DPD is doing anything especially wrong.

There’s at least one positive crime story, though: it turns out, the American Tobacco Trail is pretty safe right now. This is according to a draft report from NC State, NC Central, and NC Rails-Trails.

Although the report notes the spike in crime a few years ago, it also observes that the trail is overall safer than many of the communities it passes through. I read this as: where the trail runs through some of the poorer areas of Durham, the safest place to be is on the trail.

The exception to this is the area around Fayetteville St near the intersection with Pilot Street, where several crimes have clustered on the trail. The study notes that “crime locations were correlated with areas with open views and lack of vegetation; urban areas where the trail/community edges are poorly defined” – that describes the area to a T. The report identifies ways to improve the built environment to help improve safety in this sort of location.

I’ve been critical of how the city has responded to crime on the trail in the past, but overall the trail appears to be quite safe at this time (although that shouldn’t be seen as a justification for ignoring the “low hanging fruit” improvements mentioned in the report). It appears that right now the biggest crime issue facing the trail is perception, rather than reality.

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