The community has not been quiet when it comes to voicing fears about the Riverwalk Trail becoming unsafe and dangerous for citizens to use.
The Puyallup Police Department has heard the cry, and it is responding.
“Our mission talks about reducing crime and the fear of crime,” Police Chief Bryan Jeter said. “We were not able to establish that there was a lot of crime on the Riverwalk Trail, but we’re hearing from our citizens that they feel unsafe walking on the river trail, which is a shame because it was built for our citizens to enjoy.”
While the department hadn’t seen a lot of the danger on the trail citizens have been talking about, Capt. Scott Engle says it’s still important for the department to put its citizens at ease. Part of that comes with hosting Saturday’s (May 7) Walk the Riverwalk with Chief Bryan Jeter event.
“We’re not seeing an increase in crime,” Engle said. “Every once in a while there’s a blip, but safety is not in jeopardy. Puyallup is a safe place.”
Overall crime rates in the city have not risen, Jeter confirmed.
“In 2015, a lot of our major crime categories went down,” the chief said. “Our crime rates for auto thefts and burglaries have gone down — our thefts (overall) have gone down.”
Part of the fear of citizens feel on the Riverwalk Trail comes from homeless people hanging out on the trail.
“I’m not aware of (crimes on the trail),” Jeter said. “It’s so infrequent that it doesn’t pop into my mind. It’s generally if someone has mental issues and is sitting on a bench talking to themselves. That definitely can make people feel uncomfortable.”
Puyallup PD hopes Saturday’s event will help put citizens’ minds at ease and allow them to enjoy the popular recreation spot.
“It has more to do with the fear of crime, than the actual crime on the trail,” Jeter said. “Which is real, because if people feel fearful, than that’s reality and we have to make sure we’re dealing with that as well.”
The police chief himself, along with the deputy chief and other city staff members run the trail on their lunch breaks twice a week, and haven’t seen the crimes or danger citizens are talking about.
“Running on the trail is number one to get exercise and number two to check and see what’s going on on the trail,” Jeter said. “We hadn’t seen some of the things that people are saying, but obviously you’re looking at a 30-minute snapshot when we’re running the trail, too. We don’t see it in the evening or in the morning when other people may see it.”
The Walk with the Chief event starts at 1 p.m., where citizens and their families can join Jeter, who will walk from the trailhead under state Route 512 and 2nd Avenue Northeast to behind Mama Stortini’s on East Main and back.
“We decided to focus on the trail because that seems to be the biggest area of concern,” Jeter said. “We’re trying to help people to understand that Puyallup is a safe community to live, work and play in.”