November 30, 2020
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Staying safe on our local trails

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
November 2, 2018

A recent assault on a woman exercising on a trail in Sonoma is a good reminder for everybody of trail safety – what to look out for, how to protect oneself, and what to do in the case of a crime. Fortunately, any crimes in recent years on our local trails have been isolated incidences and there has not been a pattern of attacks, especially as Public Works has been working hard, cleaning up creeks and keeping any encampments out of the area. “I would say we don’t have a lot of incidents on our creek paths,” says Sergeant Jerrod Marshall of the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety. “Myself and another officer were just out there yesterday covering the trails on our motorcycles and we did not come across any encampments, we didn’t see anyone living out there or come across anyone that shouldn’t be out there.” Nevertheless, there are some precautions people can take to keep themselves safe. Overall, be aware and alert. Be aware of your surroundings, observe others in the vicinity and watch for any suspicious behavior. “Don’t isolate yourself by being on your headphones,” says Marshall. “Be able to hear what’s going on around you whenever possible. For the most part try and avoid the super dark trails late at night or later in the evening; definitely take a buddy with you.” Walking or running with a friend or in a group, or even with a dog can be helpful, as people are more vulnerable when they are alone. If you see any suspicious behavior or a crime is committed, immediately call 911. Today, even cell phones get routed to the local police dispatch center, rather than to CHP like they used to. “Keep your cell phone handy so you can call us quickly,” says Marshall. “And know where you’re at on the trail. If you have to call in it’s always helpful to know where you are, not just ‘Copeland Creek Trail’ – that’s a pretty long trail that runs from Snyder Lane to Commerce, so knowing where you’re at or landmarks helps us get there faster.” If exercising with a cell phone, downloading some apps beforehand can help keep you safe. For example, BSafe on the app store can send an alarm signal when you are in danger, record what is happening and allow your loved ones to see where you are. The alarm can even be activated by voice if you cannot reach your phone. Another app, Road ID, can allow your loved ones to track you while out for a run or bike ride. A stationary alert notification feature will notify family if you stop moving, whether they have the app or not. The Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety also plans to start a bike patrol unit. The bikes have already been acquired but officers still need to go through training and the start of their deployment is still to be determined – probably after the first of the year. With the new paths running along the SMART trail line, the opportunity for walking, running and biking in a safe, non-traffic environment is becoming more abundant – a boon for our community members. By taking some safety precautions residents can ensure their healthy time outside is safe as well.