Increased patrols, new signage, clearing brush among hike-and-bike trail safety improvements under way

Sonny Long

Dec. 6, 2011 at 6:06 a.m.

Along with an already increased police presence, plans are under way for additional safety measures along Victoria's Lone Tree Hike and Bike Trail.

Victoria Police Chief JJ Craig told the city council Tuesday that a comprehensive evaluation of trail safety prompted several staff suggestions for improvements.

Craig reported that the department has added bicycle patrols, all-terrain vehicle patrols and K-9 patrols to the trail.

The police department was asked to examine safety along the 2.6-mile trail after a rape was reported there in November.

"We looked at other opportunities to make some other safety enhancements to the trail itself," the chief said.

The enhancements looked at included additional signage, emergency call boxes surveillance cameras, environmental improvements and limiting park hours.

Craig recommended new signage to include mile markers along the trail close enough to be seen from one to the other, signs indicating road intersections, signs recommending use of cell phones on the trail, and signs encouraging the buddy system.

"I've been on this trail a lot the last couple of months, and at times I didn't know exactly where I was," Craig said. "We encourage people to exercise at times when there are other people using the trail. Those types of environments dissuade people from committing crimes."

City Manager Charmelle Garrett said work is already under way to erect some of the recommended signs.

Another recommendation already in the works is the clearing some of the brush along the trail, especially between Airline Road and Miori Lane along the trial.

"It may take a budget amendment, but we are working on what it would take to clear that brush," Garrett said.

The police chief said residents who live along the trail will also be asked to trim their trees that hang over onto the trail.

Craig said he hoped that the Neighborhood Watch in place along the trail would be joined by a second watch group.

He also said use of members of the Civilian Police Academy to patrol the trail could be part of a proactive community policing component of the recommendations.

The only debate in the discussion came on the recommendation of limiting park hours to 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.

"It would give the police department a very valuable tool to stop and talk to someone who is on the trail outside these hours," Craig said. "That would give the police department the opportunity to stop and introduce ourselves."

Councilman Paul Polasek was against setting hours for trail use.

"I have been on this trail a lot. It was an unfortunate incident. I am shocked that it occurred," Polasek said. "It's a sad, unfortunate incident that triggered this discussion. There are people out there constantly. I would tell people to exercise caution. Use common sense."

"The increased K-9 and bicycle patrols will also give us a better idea at what's going on on the trail," said the city manager.

"If we get additional information and feel like we need to come back and ask council for additional direction based on that additional information, we can do that," Garrett said.

The police chief said the hike-and-bike trail is safe.

"It's a very well lit area. It is a safe location. There are some opportunities to improve upon areas of concern," Craig said.



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