What You Need to Know Before Your Next Bike Ride or Run
The public walking trails in Indianapolis are the result of tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer investment, and they’re responsible for getting millions of residents and tourists up off the couch and on their feet each year.
The trails are popular and add immeasurably to our city’s culture and appeal.
But are they safe?
Earlier this month, a man was arrested for allegedly exposing himself to a woman between 86th and 91st Streets on the Monon Trail.
The victim was out for a jog in broad daylight — just after 11 a.m. — when she came across a stranger. “It’s nice outside, isn’t it?” he asked while fully exposing himself, according to a report by RTV6.
The man did not make physical contact or cause bodily harm, but the act is a crime nonetheless, and it raises the specter of other criminal activity on the Indy area trails. Just how worried should you be?
Flashing Isn’t the Only Concern
You’ll rarely find yourself completely alone on an Indy trail, though that does happen, particularly on the less-traveled trails or late at night.
Even in the company of others, however, safety is a concern.
Case in point: the Monon Flasher. The victim was hardly the only person out for a jog on the morning of September 14, 2018. But the suspect is said to have flashed her on a small stretch of the trail, where they happened to briefly be alone.
RTV6 reports that several other flashing incidents have happened on the Monon Trail in the last two months alone.
Of course, a flasher isn’t your only concern. Earlier this year, homicide detectives were called in after a body was found in the White River near Monon Trail.
We decided to pull the public crime data* to determine exactly how many crimes — and which kinds of crimes — are happening along the Indy area trails.
* Source: Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Uniform Crime Report (UCR)
The Raw Data: Every Crime Committed on an Indianapolis Trail
Photo Credit: Jun Wang Flickr cc
To ensure that we were focused narrowly on the trails themselves, we restricted our search to documented criminal activity occurring within 25 feet of any given Indianapolis trail. We reduce the distance to 10 feet in the case of the Cultural Trail, owing to its proximity to Downtown Indianapolis, which generally sees a higher rate of crime across the board.
In total, 387 crimes have been reported as happening on an Indianapolis public trail during the last five years. Each of these crimes is charted by location on the corresponding map.
Right off the bat, we might take some comfort in that number. While 387 crimes mean 387 too many, one might expect a much higher rate over the course of five years for a city of Indianapolis’ size.
The data also reveal some important insight into exactly which threats are the most serious and pervasive on the trails. Here are some of our key takeaways:
Number of Crimes by Trail (and the Most Common Type of Crime on Each)
- Cultural Trail — 150 crimes (larceny/theft)
- Monon Trail — 60 crimes (larceny/theft)
- Pogue’s Run Trail — 50 crimes (larceny/theft)
- Downtown Canal Walk — 45 crimes (larceny/theft)
- IWC Canal Greenway, aka the Central Canal Towpath — 39 crimes (assault / aggravated assault)
- White River Trail — 26 crimes (larceny/theft)
- Fall Creek Trail — 15 crimes (larceny/theft)
- Central White River Trail — 4 crimes (larceny/theft)
How Common Is Rape on the Indy Area Trails?
As you can see above, larceny is the most common crime on each trail (with the exception of the IWC Canal Towpath, where it was a close second).
But while larceny is always concerning, it isn’t the threat that occupies most people’s minds.
A USA Today report found that walking alone at night is the single biggest fear in America, and it’s largely due to the fear of violent crime. Similarly, a Gallup poll found that 37% of Americans fear walking at night even when near their own homes. The Washington Post reports that this fear is disproportionately prominent among women, who are much more likely than men to fear rape and sexual assault in addition to all the other concerns about crime while walking.
Unfortunately, rape does appear among those crimes reported along the Indianapolis public trails in the last five years. Here’s what the data tell us:
- There were four rapes and one attempted rape on Indy area walking trails during the last five years.
- Two of the rapes happened late at night (10:30 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.), as did the attempted rape (2:30 a.m.). But the other two cases occurred in the middle of the day (at 1:41 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.)
- Two of the rapes occurred on the Cultural Trail (the 2:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. incidents). The other two occurred on Pogue’s Run Trail. The attempted rape occurred on the IWC Canal Towpath.
- Experts caution that many rapes, attempted rapes, and other cases of sexual assault go unreported, so the actual number may be higher than reflected in the official UCR data.
Other Violent Crimes and Murder
Here’s what the data shows regarding violent crime on the Indianapolis trails. During the period studied, there were:
- 51 assaults / aggravated assaults (22 of these involved a gun, 3 involved a knife, and 10 involved a type of weapon other than hands or fists.)
- 36 robberies and 3 attempted robberies (including aggravated, armed, and strong-armed robberies)
- 1 criminal homicide — 11:43 a.m. on May 6, 2016, at White River Trail. Details of the tragic incident are available in this report from WISH-TV.
Occurrence of Crimes
Most crimes were committed in the late afternoon early evening when the trails are at their busiest. Though there was a jump in crime on the trails from 12-2 AM. The trails are open to the public 24-hours a day.
Also, not surprising that there was an increase in crimes during the warmer months. With more people using the trails it’s common to see crime increase as well.
Access the Full Data
If you’d like to learn more about specific criminal activity along the Indianapolis public trails, you can access our full findings here or run your own search on the Metro Police Department’s website.
What to Do If You’re Injured or Assaulted on an Indy Area Trail
By and large, our city’s walking trails are safe, and serious crime is relatively rare. Nevertheless, everyone should be cautious. Always carry a fully charged cell phone with you and dial 911 in the event of an emergency.
If you have experienced or witnessed a crime, report it to the police right away. And if you have been injured, we urge you to contact our office as soon as possible to talk about your options for filing a claim for monetary compensation.
Even if your injury was not associated with criminal activity — for example, a dog bite, a slip and fall, an injury caused by a driver or cyclist, etc. — our may be able to help. We are dedicated to keeping Hoosiers safe and fighting for their rights after an injury.
If you’ve been injured and have questions about your right to compensation, please contact Doehrman Buba Ring for a free consultation right away.