Volunteers wanted to patrol Schuylkill River Trail

FAIRMOUNT PARK (WPVI) -- A new initiative is underway to keep people safe on the Schuylkill River Trail.

Gina Palos says she loves walking on the trail, but she doesn't always feel safe.

"I've been on this trail before with my husband and there was a bunch of kids that wouldn't let us pass them," said Palos of Fairmount. "They were just playing around with us and it was just disturbing."

Back in February, police say groups of teens on bikes were approaching people on the trail - some with weapons - demanding money and cell phones. In one case, police say a man was beaten even after he handed over his phone.

Since then, a coalition has formed to increase security. Volunteers will be trained to be part of a new "trail watch" at a session on April 27.

"So they'll learn different techniques so when they see incidents taking place along this trail," said Philadelphia City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson. "Who do you report it to? How do you reach out to the police department? How do you go about making descriptions?"

In the past two weeks, location markers have gone up so people can help notify police exactly where crime is happening.

Community organizations like the Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition have joined in the effort to make the trail safer.

"There needed to be a proactive solution to alleviate the fears, but also have more eyes and ears out on the trail to help keep an eye on what's going on," said Sarah Clark Stuart, Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition.

Most trail users we spoke to think trained volunteers will make a difference.

"I've always really liked it, and I think it's great that they're upping some programs to take care of some security measures here," said Megan Fraga of Center City.

"People have busy schedules, they need to do stuff at night," said Jack Field of Bala Cynwyd. "Why not have people use this?"

Registration for that first training session opened Friday, and is limited to 50 people.

You can sign up for free at SRTwatch.com.
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