Friday, May 8, 2009
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Bicycle and Walking Trails are Very Safe Places
In a recent Citizen Poll, someone quoted a story about the Silver Comet Trail to spread fear of bicycle and walking trails in Newton County. However, that person left out comments in the story saying the trail is used by more than 2 million people annually and that reports of crime are low. Paulding County Sheriff's Deputy Ashley Hensen said of the two assault incidents in 2008: "This was a big surprise. We primarily don't have any problems out there. This was an isolated incident for the most part."
The article says Paulding received 23 calls about the trail over a 20-month period (13.8 calls/year). The Citizen Poll caller felt this was excessive. But, the Paulding Sheriff's 2008 Annual Report says the department fielded 75,561 calls across the county, making 4,326 arrests. For 2007, Paulding reported assaults occurred at a county-wide rate of 2.61 incidents per 1,000 people. By contrast, those two assaults among over 2 million trail users equate to a rate of 0.001 per 1,000 people. County-wide assaults occurred at a rate 2,610 times as often as they did on the trail. So, Deputy Henson was right, they really don't have problems on the trail.
As for the one tragic murder on the trail in 2006, the caller is right, "one murder is too many." But, what is his/her answer for that? This March, a gunman entered an Illinois church and shot the pastor dead. Last week, a man shot and killed a woman in a Snellville Target parking lot, and a college professor killed his wife and two others near the UGA campus. Should we immediately shut down all churches, shopping centers and colleges in Newton County, and prohibit ever building any more? Considering Columbine and other sad incidents since, should we shut down our high schools? Should we just stay home and hide from the world? No, come to think of it, a gunman in Samson, Ala., murdered 11 people, most of them just sitting on their own front porch. Murder is never to be taken lightly. But, CDC data shows cardiovascular disease kills 36 times as many people as homicide. Cancer kills 31 times as many. In fact you are twice as likely to take your own life as to die at the hands of a murderer. So, ignore the fear mongers. Get outside, exercise, and improve your chance for a long, healthy life.
Editor's note: Carter is married to Kim Carter, mayor of Covington.