Richard Layman sent me an article about people in Broward County, FL who are opposed to a multi-use trail becasue they fear it will cause a rise in crime. The article is no longer up, but it's covered at TransitMiami. The premise that trails bring crime is pretty ridiculous. It's not exactly the best get away vehicle, nor is it easy to carry a lot of stuff. And wouldn't that be an argument for not building roads? As transitmiami points out.
First, if there’s crime now, that doesn’t mean a shared-use path will increase the level of crime. If crime went up after a path was put in, it would be a post hoc fallacy to assume that because of the path the crime went up.
But worse then being silly, it's also wrong.
statistics show that trails consistently have a positive impact on crime and vandalism
For more than you could ever want to know on the subject there is a report by Tod Schneider in the August 2000 Parks & Recreation Association magazine. (What, you don't subscribe?)
Tod Schneider is a specialist in crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED), confrontation management, and violence prevention for the Eugene, Oregon, police department where, since 1984, he has critiqued parks, schools, and other facilities. He serves as an independent national consultant, as the police liaison to the Institute on Violence and Destructive Behavior at the University of Oregon, and as an instructor for the Koch Crime Institute based in Topeka, Kansas.
And what does he show? Some highlights.
In response to the suggestion that bike paths bring violent crime to campuses, a representative flew to the National School Safety Center to personally review their records on every school-related violent incident in the country. Not one of those incidents had anything to do with a bike path.
A critic in our community cited a half-dozen homicides as evidence of bike paths being dangerous...[but] the bike path was of little or no consequence to the crimes. The bike path might have been in the same area, but so was the river, the underbrush, or in particular cases an apartment complex, a street, a school, or a shopping mall. The path had no more impact on these crimes than did the Douglas firs, ducks, or squirrels, yet all of these other factors escaped demonization.
He goes on to talk about how to make trails safer - don't keep them hidden from view, add lighting, etc... I particularly liked the idea of painting address markings along a trail for cell phone users to describe their location to emergency responders.
I think even the people who say they're worried about crime aren't really worried about crime, they're worried about change and strangers in their neighborhood. Saying crime just makes them seem less selfish.
Update: Just read this on the misfits chat
Vicky Hallett: This is only semi-related, but I have to share. When I went on that ride along with the Park Police officer, he took me to a few places in Montgomery County (not the Capital Crescent Trail, thank goodness) where gang members poop on the trail to keep people from going to areas where they hang out. Pretty effective, no?
So it seems criminals want to close trails....hmmm and ewww!
Photo by meg