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RTC Partners with Guardian Angels for Trail Patrol Program

The recently opened Met Branch Trail connecting downtown Washington, D.C., with neighborhoods to the north is a great example of how urban rail-trails serve a wide variety of needs--from everyday commuters to casual runners and the people and businesses in communities along the trail.

But one of the realities of life in a big city is the threat of crime and assault, particularly after dark. Trail users returning home of an evening are often a target.

Having been one of the key proponents of the construction of the Met Branch Trail, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) understands that building the trail is only half of the mission. The other half is to make sure the trail is well-used and well-loved, and that nearby residents become stewards of the pathway. That includes things like landscaping along the corridor to create places for rest and relaxation, and helping local school students build a natural connection to the trail.

It also includes making the route safe.

Following a number of troubling incidents on the Met Branch Trail in recent weeks, the challenge of reducing the threat of assault and robbery has received increased attention.

That's why RTC is partnering with a national volunteer patrol agency, the Guardian Angels, to see what can be done about making the Met Branch Trail a place where all people feel secure.

Last week, members of RTC's trail development staff met with a group of Guardian Angels, including one who often walks the Met Branch Trail on his way to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station, where he connects to patrols throughout the Metro system.

The plan is to build a closely connected network of trail security volunteers from neighborhood groups, trail users and residents in the area. Given that many of these volunteers probably won't have the burly presence of your average Angel, safety patrols will be made up of four or five volunteers, who will walk or bike sections of the trail together.

It will not be the role of the volunteer patrols to directly confront troublemakers or act like citizen police in foiling crime. The idea instead is that one of the biggest deterrents to threatening behavior on the trail is a regular presence of groups of people.

The hope is that these small volunteer patrols will be the kernel that develops into a strong sense of community ownership along some of the trail's less traveled and isolated spots.

Interested? Join RTC, the Metropolitan Police Department and the Guardian Angels at a public safety open house between 4 and 7 p.m., June 22, at the S Street Pocket Park on the corner of S and 4th streets NE to discuss the formation of regular community patrols, and sign up today to join the trail patrol.

Also, at the urging of one local rider, there is now also a "Bike Buddies" sign-up sheet, where trail users can connect with others who will be on the trail at the same time. Information about the volunteer security patrols, and the Bike Buddies system, can be found by joining the Met Branch Trail listserv.

For more information, contact Stephen Miller at 202.974.5123, or e-mail stephen@railstotrails.org.

Photos: Cyclists on the Met Branch Trail north of the New York Avenue Metro station; community members gather for the "Meet the Met" celebration in 2010, by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

Posted Fri, Jun 17 2011 8:21 AM by Karl Wirsing (RTC)


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Joao wrote re: RTC Partners with Guardian Angels for Trail Patrol Program
on Mon, May 28 2012 1:28 PM

PCM:Having been born and raised in Philly (now living in Ft. Wayne, IN), I remember the foot patrols we used to have.The call boxes along the telephone poles...the knowledge that whatever officer was "walking the beat" knew near everyone ON his beat, so that enabled the officer a unique perspective as a LEO, or even as acting to negotiate a simple dispute. Even as children, we felt a lot more protected as a result. Glad to see they're returning to this.Time was, it used to be that officers lived in areas they used to patrol. Today, it's 8 hrs in the "badlands", then back to the burbs...all behind the wheel of the sector car. Can't get to know an area as well that way, can you? I've felt for a long time that the "detachment" from driving a cruiser kept the populace "at arm's length", as it were.There is a form of "intimacy" involved with working a specific neighborhood (or beat) that simply cannot be achieved with a drive-by.Good post.Stay safe.


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