Assaults on Schuylkill River Trail: Is it time for cameras?

Assaults on Schuylkill River Trail: Is it time for cameras?
C.C. Tellez

A Center City jogger who was the victim of an attack on the Schuylkill River Trail wants surveillance cameras on the secluded pathway, whichhas become the focus of security concerns in recent weeks.

Runners and cyclists on the trail, which stretches from South Street to Kelly Drive, have complained of bands of teenage boys playing games of chicken, and in some cases groping joggers in what seems like a sick joke.

But one runner is saying that there is the danger of much worse happening.

She is asking that her name not be used because her attacker is still on the loose.

RELATED:Groping raises concerns on river trail, again

The 28-year-old Center City lawyer said she was jogging on the trail at dusk on Oct. 28, when a man grabbed her from behind, covering her mouth so she could not scream.

She bit him, freeing herself and running away as she screamed for help.

“I kept screaming and not looking back,” she said.

She dialed 911 on her phone, and waited with witnesses for police to show up.

She doesn’t know what the man wanted, but she doesn’t think the motive was robbery.

“I was running, so I didn’t have a purse for him to steal,” she said.

Her story comes as a group of stakeholders have begun to eye safety concerns on the trail, which became a top spot for exercise enthusiasts when it opened last year.

Ninth District Police Capt. Raymond Convery said his department has received two reports of juveniles, generally on bikes, touching women runners on their butts. But he’s aware of several more incidents through social media. He’s assigned extra bike officers to the area, and they’re warning kids that if they get arrested, they may have to register as sex offenders.

RELATED: New river trail opens Oct. 2

He said most of the harassments happens between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

But Convery said he hasn’t received any reports similar to the one experienced by the 28-year-old victim.

At a City Council hearing held Thursday about safety concerns along the trail sponsored by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mike DiBeradinis said he would defer to the police department about whether cameras were necessary.

Convery said the department would always like to have more cameras, but there isn’t always money to pay for them.

The city is working to put surveillance cameras in all of the city’s recreation centers, but there are currently no plans to place them at recreation hotspots like Kelly Drive or along the Wissahickon — a trail that spans 8 miles.

The victim said she’s experienced harassment from the juveniles on bikes — it’s not in any way appropriate, she said, but it doesn’t make her feel unsafe.

Her attacker? He made her feel unsafe.

“I’ve never felt threatenedwhile running on the Schuylkill river trail,” she said, “but this feels really different.”

Since the attack, she’s called Parks and Recreation, and City Council to get cameras installed along the trail — or call boxes.

She hasn’t heard back from anyone.