Black mob violence and black on white crime has not destroyed the entire American Tobacco Trail. Only the small chunk that goes through Durham, North Carolina.
The high crime part. The gang-infested part. The poor part. The urban part. The part that local media calls every name imaginable except one: The black part.
Otherwise, most of the 22.5 miles of this trail is a safe, sometimes bucolic experience for runners, bikers, strollers even equestrians. As long as they stay away from the trail near Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway.
Since 2011, dozens of people have been beaten, robbed, pushed off bikes and threatened in that part of the trail. All of the suspects in this violence and mayhem are black.
Though most of the time the local media is loathe to say so. Either refusing to give a description, or doing what WRAL did in the latest attack: The TV station described one of the attackers as having a “dark complexion.”
The most recent assault happened earlier this month. An unknown number of black people sent a 53-year old man to the hospital after robbing him and beating him with a big stick. Other than saying the crime took place on the part of the trail about a mile north of Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, police are not giving out much more information.
But there is not much to say that police haven’t said more than 40 times since 2011:
In July a roller blader and a jogger were robbed by a man holding a gun.
Last August, a group of black people beat a jogger at 7:30 p.m. On the trail.
They did not rob him.
“The simple assaults don’t appear to be motivated by robbery,” the Durham Chief of Police told WRAL TV. “It appears to be motivated more by mischievousness and the locations where they find individuals who are clearly running by themselves.”
Police suggest carrying a cell phone and using the trail with others.
This whole ‘fight the mischievous thugs with a cell phone’ thing does not really work for many residents of Durham. Said one user of the WRAL web site:
Again, police advocate carrying a cell phone but not a pistol or even a stout club? What is wrong with them? Are they giving up their firearms? What is the cell phone for? Is that so you have something extra to bargain with the criminal for your life? Unreal.
Sometimes the local media will describe the attackers. Most times not.
“Yeah, great job describing the perp! Could race be involved?” asked one reader at the WRAL site, echoing lots of comments that wonder why the media does not publish a full description, even when the description is available in police reports.
Said another reader: “You forgot to mention that it was ninja who robbed them because apparently no one got a description of him. No one sees a ninja!”
Not all of the crimes are reported to the police. But this biker posted this at IndyWeek.com:
This was my first ride on the ATT. Having had my ass kicked by a group of teens in NYC, I saw familiar signs of trouble to come as I headed back towards downtown. 5-6 young teens huddled around on a bridge and watched me as I approached, right before Riddle Rd, I believe. As I passed them, one kid threw a fistful of rocks at me, hitting the side of my face. I said “thanks,” since I was sure these guys understood and appreciated sarcasm. Right past them was a large branch on the path, neatly placed to block the entire paved area. I rode over it slowly, just in time for 3 older teens, maybe 18 or so, to approach me, one of whom said something, which I lost in the wind I generated hauling ass towards town.
Not all are even condemned. In November 2011, Lisa Sorg wrote about safety on the American Tobacco Trail for Indyweek.com. She reported her own brush with mayhem.
And in late September, I had to call the police from Mile Marker .25, at the bridge downtown. This was at 5:30 in the afternoon when a guy on a trick bike yells, “Goddamn bitch.” I didn’t answer. So he biked in front of me and continued to accost me, “Hey, Goddamn bitch, why didn’t you answer? Why are you getting all white on me?”
If anyone expected outrage or anger from this urban warrior, they would be disappointed. All they got was resignation:
Now I know it’s impossible for police to surveil the entire trail; from downtown to Southpoint mall it’s essentially a 6.5-mile linear park. And if you choose to travel the trail at night, then don’t complain when you are relieved of your wallet.
Another resident of Durham said we should not be so quick to judge the people accused of the crime. She suspects many of the people attacked did something to provoke the attackers:
There are always two sides to a story. A guy says he’s attacked by some kids and everyone assumes he’s the victim. I’m positive that guy had some part of it.
Let’s not seriously think people are out there praying (sic) on joggers. The guy said the kids threw rocks and tried to trip him? Why was he close enough for them to trip him? Probably because he was trying to confront them about something.”
Others remind people of the more serious, even more violent crime in downtown Durham. Local columnist Cark Kenney says “talks about crime should not be limited to the American Tobacco Trail.” And besides, “When the victims are people living with privilege we talk about it too much. When the victims lack resources we talk about it too little.”
In downtown Durham last summer, a group of black people robbed and assaulted a 53-year old man, putting him in the hospital in critical condition.
This was the second such crime in that area within a month: “The suspects are also four black male teenagers.The victim was also hospitalized and in critical condition,” said the News Observer.
Even so, its the persistent violence at the American Tobacco Trail that gets the attention. Too much of the wrong kind of attention, said one local resident: “This is a pride and joy of the whole city. Our American Tobacco Trail is a wonderful place for families, for diversity, for bikers, walkers of all ages,” she said
Lots of readers were not sure what she meant by saying the trail promotes diversity.
But several did offer advice about how to safe on it: Said Scot34 at WRAL: “if you want to be a target and statistic,walk or run the trail. When will you people learn to defend yourself and solve this problem. These unarmed and unprepared citizens are making this a target rich environment for criminals, thats why it continues to happen.”