Since its opening in October, thousands of people have hit the path to enjoy the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail.
But it has also been a draw for criminals and, in response, the Atlanta Police Department is beefing up it presence along the 2.25-mile section of the BeltLine that runs from Irwin St. to 10th St. and Monroe Dr., connecting the neighborhoods of Inman Park, Old Fourth Ward, Midtown, Poncey Highland and Virginia Highland.
Earlier this month, a 34-year-old man was jogging near the Old Fourth Ward Skate Park portion of the trail one afternoon when he was approached by three men, one of whom was on a bicycle.
According to police, one of the suspects struck the jogger in the head with his fist, and another produced a gun. The men took the victim’s cellphone before fleeing. It’s one of at least three such armed robberies so far on the trail. BeltLine organizers and police don’t want it to become a growing trend.
"We have increased patrols along the BeltLine," APD spokesman Carlos Campos told Midtown Patch. “We have officers on foot, bicycle and in an all-terrain vehicle. We want to make sure folks are safe while using the BeltLine.”
BeltLine officials have communicated that a plan is under way to install more lighting along the trail, while additional measures will include security cameras and increased coordination with neighborhood patrol groups.
Atlanta police anticipates it will have its Path Force fully staffed and ready to begin patrols of Beltline in the first or second quarter of next year. The unit is being formed via a three-year $1.87 million federal Community Oriented Policing Services grant, which also calls for the city to contribute $966,075 in additional matching funds.
The grant is enough to fund and create 15 positions. A grant requirement stipulates that the city hire military veterans, and APD has said it would pull from existing officers to staff the Path Force.
APD announced the creation of the Path Force in June, which it said would be dedicated to patrolling and serving as a crime deterrent on the BeltLine. But until the Path Force is put in place, Eastside Trail users can expect to see more police presence during their time enjoying the BeltLine.
And Campos reminds all BeltLine users to be alert and aware of their surroundings while using the trail, and “to call 9-1-1 if they see suspicious activity.”
- East Atlanta Patch Editor Péralte Paul contributed to this story