GREENWAYS & CRIME
"A public trail? Not in MY backyard!! I don't want a facility that will
bring in all those criminals, vandals, and crazy kids." So goes the
refrain of many a citizen who has learned about a proposed greenway trail
for their neighborhood. Yet greenway supporters point out that, on the
contrary, trails are EXACTLY what is needed to reduce the level of crime
being experienced in urban neighborhoods. Consider:
- A study of the Burke-Gilman trail, which passes through high-density
urban neighborhoods and crime-prone areas in downtown Seattle, found
little or no crime or vandalism experienced by adjacent property owners.
The study surveyed property owners, Realtors, and police officers (the
officers recommended development of additional trails). Similar studies
in suburban Minnesota and Wisconsin echo these findings.
- A National Geographic article refers to greenway studies showing
that "trails are no less secure than other areas of human use and cause
no increase in crime... A long-term study of the Appalachian Trail
revealed impressively low crime statistics considering the volume of
people who use the facility." Statistics from a planner in Raleigh,
North Carolina indicate "you're probably safer on a greenway than in
most areas. People with a criminal mind-set don't usually frequent
places like that."
- A survey of greenways in several states has found that such parks
"typically have not experienced serious problems regarding vandalism,
crime, trespass, [or] invasion of privacy ... Prior to developing those
park facilities, these concerns were strongly voiced in opposition to
the proposed trail. After park development, however, it was found that
fears did not materialize... concerns expressed by the neighbors
opposed... have not proven to be a post-development problem in any of
the  parks surveyed."
- A former opponent of Seattle's trail (her home is adjacent to the
trail) stated that the "trail is much more positive than I expected. I
was involved in citizens groups opposed to the trail. I now feel that
the trail is very positive- [there are] fewer problems than before the
trail was built; [there was] more litter and beer cans and vagrants
[before it was built]. Not a single resident surveyed said that present
conditions were worse than prior to construction of the trail.
- One property owner along a proposed 26-mile trail in Iowa was
skeptical about the trail, and was part of a group saying (1) the land
should belong to them; and (2) the trail would bring vandalism from city
trail users. He went to see for himself He saw people pedaling, jogging,
and walking..."You know something," he told his wife when he returned
home, "all those people were smiling." He has since turned from trail
opponent to one of its most diligent volunteers.
Why are greenways so free from crime? Controlled access to the trail
(compared to pre-trail access) and observant trail users who report
suspicious activity are the reasons most cited. Trails naturally encourage
"crime-watch" activity. The attached letters, written by local law
enforcement agencies from around the country, reinforces this
Source: National Park Service, Rivers, Trails, and
Conservation Assistance Prograin.