Lynchburg police paying extra attention to the city's trails after alleged rape

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7)-- Police in Lynchburg say they are using a heightened awareness on the city’s trails throughout the summer. This comes nearly a month after a woman reported being raped on a Riverside Park trail.

The woman said she was walking on the trail when a man assaulted and raped her on Friday, June 15, between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Officials said they are not aware of any other incidents in the area.

Keeping the trails safe is a team effort between Parks and Recreation, Animal Control and Lynchburg Police. Just because a trail is off the beaten path, doesn’t mean it’s not being watched. The LPD is making sure of that.

At least twice a week, an LPD officer will ride a golf cart through the trail system, starting at Percival’s Island. This is in addition to regular field officers patrolling the major parks at least twice a day. Where a police cruiser can’t fit, the golf cart can.

"It's more of just a presence right now, than me seeking out something,” said Officer Lee Hughes, who has been taking most of the patrol shifts. “But if I happen upon something I'll take care of it as need be."

The LPD started patrolling the trails about two years back, when the cart was donated by several local companies. They say in light of recent events it's even more important to let people know they're around.

Debbie Zinn walks the trails every day. She has seen the golf cart and says she’d like to see even more of it.

"Safe, secure, tax dollars at work," said Zinn.

As he patrols, Officer Hughes shares safety tips. He said it’s important to use the buddy system and pay attention to mile markers.

"That way if they have to call 911 they can say I just passed mile marker so and so off the Percival's island entrance," said Hughes.

The alleged rape is still being investigated, but police are looking at these patrols as a preventative measure moving forward.

"The only reason I'm here is to make sure it's safe for everybody,” said Hughes. “To give them peace of mind for using the public trail system.”