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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Beltline patrol force to monitor trail

New unit funded by federal grant will oversee Eastside Trail, southwest Atlanta segments, adjacent parks
  • Joeff Davis
  • New unit funded by federal grant will oversee trails and adjacent parks

Vandals, robbers, and ne'er-do-wells trying to pull CraigsList scams on the Atlanta Beltline, you have been warned. Men and women with badges and holstered pistols pedaling on mountain bikes - and sometimes horses - will now be patrolling the smart-growth project.

Mayor Kasim Reed yesterday officially unveiled the Beltline Path Force, a special unit of 15 Atlanta Police officers tasked with boosting security on the greenspace loop's trails and adjacent parks.

The squad, which is funded by a $1.8 million federal grant the city received in 2012, will be aided by new surveillance cameras that will also feed into the city's surveillance center. They're also expected to use off-road motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles. APD Lt. Jeff Baxter, the unit's commander, visited several cities, including New York, to study similar public safety units.

Officers will be based out of the Lofts at Reynoldstown Crossing, which Atlanta Beltline Inc., the nonprofit that plans and develops the project, purchased in 2011. They'll work two shifts patrolling the project during the day and evening. Precinct commanders will monitor the project when it closes late at night.

Though today was the official unveiling, some officers have already been patrolling the Beltline's trails and parks for several weeks. According to APD Chief George Turner, the Path Force's officers have made 60 arrests in that time.

The unit wasn't contemplated to roll out for another year or so, Reed told reporters yesterday at a press conference along the project's Eastside Trail, but the popularity of the Beltline convinced the city otherwise.

"We're not going to let anyone, certainly criminals of any kind, take away from this city what the Atlanta Beltline is contributing," the mayor said. "The Atlanta Beltline is going to be secure."

Paul Morris, ABI's new CEO, thinks the Path Force - whom he calls the "rock stars of the Atlanta Beltline" - could become a "model for the country." He added that the process of creating the unit has convinced project planners to invite the APD to provide input on future trail segments' design. ABI is adding lighting to its bridges, working with APD to build a camera network, and installing new signage and markers. Future Beltline segments, the APD says, will include lighting and cameras.

Reed said the city will absorb the force's expenses into the city budget when the grant expires.

And here's a group photo of the new force.

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