As the Eastside Trail opening nears, BeltLine security squad still is "more of a concept."
Though it doesn’t technically open until October 15, and sizable chunks of it are still under construction, the Atlanta Beltline’s Eastside Trail is already populated with business-attired bicyclists, joggers, skaters, and entire convoys of families. Police and Beltline officials stress that people who use the trail now do so at their own risk.
But how about when the trail is officially open? In June, APD officials announced that the department would create a BeltLine patrol as part of an $1.8 million federal grant. According to the three-year deal, APD would hire fifteen military veterans—those having served active duty for at least 180 days, post-9/11—as police officers; a team of existing police would then be reallocated to focus on Beltline security and patrols. The fifteen-member squad would be called the “APD Path Force.”
But as the 2.25-mile trail’s opening nears—and smaller paved segments are functioning—police say the Path Force remains a work-in-progress, and that the hiring of veterans has yet to commence.
The Path Force “is really more of a concept at this point more than anything else,” said APD spokesman Carlos Campos. “We’re certainly committed to it, but it’s far too early to get into the details—primarily because those details are not worked out.”
Campos expects the team to be assembled and deployed sometime next year. Meanwhile, officers based in the new Boulevard mini-precinct will patrol the Eastside Trail on bicycles. The new trail will be open daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. There is not yet lighting on the trail.
The fourteen-foot-wide, concrete artery will connect Old Fourth Ward (Irwin Street) to Monroe Drive at Piedmont Park. As with all public spaces in the city, law enforcement will be the APD’s jurisdiction. BeltLine spokeswoman Jenny Pittman said trail users are encouraged to call 911 to report emergencies and suspicious activity. Expect posted signs to carry that message.
Pictured: The Eastside trail on September 15, 2012—a month before the scheduled opening. Photo by Rebecca Burns