PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) --After months of training, volunteers started patrolling the Schuylkill River Trail Saturday, an effort to keep its users safe.
"Once we began to advertise that we were creating a trail watch, people just stepped up to the plate and said, 'How can I get involved?' " said City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson (D- Philadelphia).
Starting this week, about 80 volunteers in plain clothes will patrol the trail.
Next week, organizers say they'll be in uniform.
"People will be in pairs. Bikers, walkers, runners will be paired off together. And they'll be put in two-hour shifts throughout the day," said Jon Lyons, RUN 215.
At the kickoff, badges were handed out to people who completed the training, which volunteers say was surprisingly thorough.
"We learned a lot about trying to pick out features in people, and if you see someone quickly, trying to remember what they look like," said Rebecca Barber, Trail Watch Volunteer.
Police officers who work the trail say the extra eyes and ears will be a huge help.
About two weeks ago, a woman had her face slashed in broad daylight while walking on the trail. Last month, two incidents of indecent exposure were reported. And in February, several teens were arrested and charged with assault and robbery.
"Each section that we go to, if we can get this kind of response then it makes it so much easier for us," said Philadelphia Police Capt. Ray Convery. "I can't explain to you how important it is for us to be able to have help in the neighborhood."
Trail users we spoke with say the patrols are a welcome addition.
"I think things like that will makes others feel more comfortable and make the community feel safe and healthy. Make it a family atmosphere," said Claire Charles of Chestnut Hill.
Councilman Johnson says he's also in talks with the Department of Parks and Recreation about surveillance cameras on the trail.
Organizers hope to train even more volunteers as the summer goes on. Click here fore more information.