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People are being Assaulted on the Schuylkill River Trail and it’s NOT Ok.
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People are being Assaulted on the Schuylkill River Trail and it’s NOT Ok.

*Updated 9/17 at 11:15 AM: We received an email from the Zoe Axelrod from the Schuylkill River Development Corporation and have updated a few texts in the original post.

A recent string of attacks on both runners and bikers is happening right on USA Today’s Best Urban Trail Winner.

Although I try to avoid perusing Facebook for hours on end, I couldn’t help but notice these recurring themes of danger on the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT) in the past few months. And it’s not incidents where people are solo at 3 AM, after a Saturday evening at Bob & Barbara’s.

One private Facebook group has discussed several incidences. One woman’s bike was stolen while she was riding on the SRT, as she rode a few hundred yards behind her boyfriend. On August 2nd, August 9th & August 17th, a group of teenage boys shoved women off their bikes (at least one theft in this incident) and/OR assaulted them.

Last evening, a woman posted on the Run215 Facebook group that a female runner was surrounded by a group of teenage males on bikes, even as people were running, riding and walking AROUND the group. Luckily the witness stopped and the assailants left. The victim said they group had been verbally and sexually harassing her.

Recurring themes in these instances include a handful of teenage boys, often blocking off the trail (either by one end of the SRT by an intersection or end). The assailants either have bikes or may be without.

This is totally unacceptable on a trail where we celebrate our accomplishments but bury the problems. I searched online for any news coverage of these instances, but it’s limited to a raped on the trail by JFK Boulevard in May 2014 and incidences in Norristown six years ago. (UPDATED 11:15 AM: SRDC pointed out “that the rape on the trail reported in May of 2014 was never substantiated and is believed to be a false report to cover other actions by the purported victim who refused to cooperate with the police.”)

So what can we do to prevent similar occurrences? 

Suggestions on the Facebook group include contacting the Schuylkill River Development Corporation or local friends group.

**Updated 9/17 at 11:15 AM: We received an email from the Zoe Axelrod from the Schuylkill River Development Corporation. The organization issued the following statement:

“While we would of course like to know when these incidents happen, we suggest that people first contact the police, by calling 911 at the scene of the crime and giving a detailed description, as you suggest. A call from the victim or direct witness as the incident is happening gives police the best chance of catching the assailant.”

More good news from Axelrod, which is now on the Schuylkill Banks website on how to report an incident:

“SRDC has contacted the 9th District and they have agreed to increase police presence on the trail. They have given the following 3 email addresses, where people can send their concerns:

Lieutenant Marty Best – marty.best@phila.gov
Lieutenant Stephen Johnson – stephen.johnson@phila.gov
Captain’s email – policeco_09@phila.gov

However, they stress that a 911 call ASAP is the proper response to enable apprehension.”

They agreed to increase police presence on the trail! What a win, guys! ** Updated 11/17 at 11:15 AM

Other suggestions? 

  • Tell a friend. The more people aware of the situation, the more people can look out for each other / look out for suspicious signs or people in danger.
  • Contact your City Council representative – If they start getting calls about the safety of our fitness trails, they will pay attention.

What to do if you’re in a dangerous situation:

  • Report it by calling 911 if you are a victim! Make sure to get a very detailed description of your attacker, and try noticing things besides clothing/etc. (facial features, piercings, etc.) Think the police will never catch the assailant? After searching for the person who robbed me, the Police officer found my attacker an hour after the incident. (Story for another time.) It’s possible, but you must report it.   
  • Note where the incident occurred.
  • Don’t be afraid to involve or inform other people around you. One other person can cause the attacker to stop their actions.
  • If you witness someone else in a questionable situation, don’t be afraid to ask ‘Are you OK?

Lowering your music in earbuds, being aware of where you are and checking with others can help prevent or nip an incident in the bud.

I’ll continue to look into this situation to see other action items we can do as a community, but I want to ask: Readers, what are your suggestions for improving safety on the Schuylkill River Trail and around the city?

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Julie Hancher
Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

80 thoughts on “People are being Assaulted on the Schuylkill River Trail and it’s NOT Ok.

  1. Are these incidents occurring on the Schuylkill Banks section of the SRT, or at different points all along the length of the trail?

  2. “what are your suggestions for improving safety on the Schuylkill River Trail”

    The un-politically correct way to say it: the problem is 100% inner-city thugs/youth of a very specific demographic. I witness it every single day. The only solution is somehow keeping that trail isolated. Possibly an electric fence.

  3. Bingo. I think everyone reading this piece knows what “a very detailed description” of the attackers would include. While I commend her for alerting people to the problem, it is frustrating to see the contortions the author goes through to avoid mentioning this elephant in the room.

  4. On Monday night, I was biking home and was assaulted by a bunch of unsupervised youth. They blocked the trail and tried to chase me down after I swerved off the trail to avoid them. One then proceeded to chase me and pound me on the back with his fist.

    It was a group of at least a dozen who looked like high-school aged boys and girls.

    It occurred at the Race Street entrance to the SRT.

  5. Hi Bob – It appears the attackers are teenage boys, approximately 14-18 years old. However, I was not involved in the attacks and am receiving the information firsthand via Facebook, but further etc descriptions were not available to me.

    Further, a second string (on the private Facebook group) has already addressed race and avoiding “stereotyping” to target any specific groups as a result of these incidents. I didn’t want this to turn into a discussion about demographics or take away from my primary concern about this issue: safety. Safety is the article focus here.

    Let’s do what we can to make Philadelphia a safe place where we can exercise and enjoy our parks without fear.

  6. Oskar, sorry to hear this happened to you. This is absolutely unacceptable to happen to you. I encourage you to report this instance to the police and file a report. Thanks for sharing your story.

  7. I’ve seen these kids. Up to 25 on bikes, all African American and completely disrespectful and rude. They tried to embarass me while getting water.

  8. Stereotyping is what allowed humans to survive since the beginning of our species. As an urban dweller, I have to stereotype to stay alive.

    If a man with a knife jumps at me, I will stereotype him into a murderer, not a chef from a Zagat rated establishment.

  9. WHAT MAKES YOU THINK ITS BLACK KIDS. BLACK BODIES ARE UNDER ASSAULT AT ALL TIMES BY PPD, AND YA’LL BLAMING THE VICTIM FOR ALL CRIMES. WHY DON’T YOU MOVE TO YOUR ALL WHITE SUBURBS. GOOD RIDDANCE ENOUGH OF THE RACISM. WHITE PPL COMMIT CRIMES AGAINST BLACK BODIES EVERY DAY, I DON’T HEAR YOU COMPLAINING ABOUT THAT.

  10. PLEASE STOP WITH THE INCENDIARY IDENTIFICATIONS. THIS DOESN’T MEAN THE PEOPLE IN THE ARTICLE ARE AA. YOU DON’T KNOW THAT, BUT ARE TARRING AND FEATHERING AN ENTIRE RACE.

  11. I see these kids all of the time, all over center city and on or near the trail. And they most certainly are not all black. I’ve never witnessed them assault anyone but they are extremely obnoxious and ride in a group in the middle of the street. I think that with the amount of people on the SRT at any given time, this sort of behavior should not be taking place. Everyone needs to look out for each other and help anyone in need.

  12. AS I SUSPECTED, NOT A PEEP FROM ANYONE ELSE TO STAND UP TO WHITE SUPREMACY AND ACKNOWLEDGE THE TRUTH OF THE SITUATION. WE ALL KNOW WHITE MALES ARE THE SOURCE OF MOST OF HUMANITIES MISERY. THE LACK OF RESPONSE SHOWS WHY AA’S ARE RIGHT TO BE SKEPTICAL ABOUT ALL THIS GREEN-WASH. IT’S ALL REALLY A WAY TO WHITE-WASH WHITE SUPREMACY.

  13. I rarely ride the SRT past Manayunk due to these types of problems. I spent most of my life living in Philadelphia. None of this is new. None of this is surprising. I can say, objectively, that it is not always young black males…it is for most cases, but certainly not all. Keep your eyes peeled for any groups loitering on the trail or any large groups of young punks (Black, White, or Purple) walking or riding along the trail…especially in Philadelphia.

  14. Well, you don’t need to be politically correct when you describe your assailant or a person who committed a crime.

  15. The grammar, typos, punctuation and just plain old poor writing (as if a 3rd grader wrote it) make me not take this article too serious. It goes into the category of stories found on “The Onion”. This is the 21st century. It was written via a computer which has such features as Spell and Grammar Checking. No excuse. If you can’t write, don’t be a blogger.

  16. Wait, they’re ages 14 to 18? They’re practically children. Men attacking women in public places is a serious issue but these are kids. Children can be violent and dangerous but is it really the same thing? I hope this issue doesn’t result in these kids getting locked up or killed by police. I hope you all realize there are better solutions than alarmism and excessive vigilance.

  17. These “children” are unfortunately as capable of assaulting and mugging people as “adults”. If they act in that way, they are deserving of whatever consequences follow.

  18. They are legally children and they are mentally children despite whatever physical advantage they have over others. They are children and they’re going to make the mistakes children make, one such is that it’s okay if they act up on people riding bicycles and running on the river path. Don’t make this about them being adults, they have as much right to be teenagers and be treated as teenagers.

  19. Groupthink, peer pressure, and all the other fun stuff teenagers are down with lead to a lot of crime and especially violence in which groups gang up on an individual. For instance, last year a bunch of 14-17 year olds jumped a couple on Temple’s campus and beat the girl’s face with a brick… If I remember correctly they ended up being tried as adults. Extreme violence can’t really be brushed off as a mistake all children make. These kids know that they’re scary in a big group and that gives them power they are using to try to hurt people. It’s serious stuff, and so it need s to be handled seriously.

  20. More black bodies commit crimes against white people every day. In fact, it’s barely even a comparison. Black on white crime is at rampant rates. Black on white crime as of today makes the civil right’s era look like child’s play. You’re just a delusional chimp that won’t accept responsibility for the actions of your people. Like all the rest of you. Praise Lord Dindu!

  21. Seems like the trail needs a town watch patrol group (and a block captain or two to manage it). These incidents happen in waves, a couple of years ago the problem was north of Boat House Row near Girard.

  22. I wasn’t always the most well-behaved teenager. But I also didnt strike a 20s year old woman, then push her over, and then mug her. I also didn’t ride past another woman and surround and intimidate her, while attempting to touch her inappropriately. I never punched a stranger in the face on a bike. This is the kind of shit that is happening on the trail. That sort of behavior is not being a teenager, and should not be handled as such.

  23. It’s not an incendiary identification when it’s true, sorry. There is a very large group of young teen African American boys I’ve seen on multiple occasions, some who even look as young as 10 or 11, who ride in a pack on the trail. Twice they have purposely almost ridden into me with my infant in a stroller — one of the larger / older idiots likes to ride uncontrollably veering in a wheely, directly into the path of oncoming users. I screamed at them to watch out for my baby the second time this happened and they laughed. It is the same group EVERY time and yes, every time it has been young black males only. Sorry.

  24. I feel like they should have more cameras and make people aware of that so that they know if they try something they will be caught. Also they should have someone around the trail at all times

  25. Having been attacked on Monday 9/14 on the SRT by the Race Street entrance, I can certify the group was exclusively AA boys AND girls. With the boys the being active participants and the girls cheering them on.

  26. The incident was reported. But because I was not injured and I successfully defended my bike, the cops aren’t going to do anything than maybe say something about it at roll call. Their process is just not set up to deal with such incidents, which, IMO, is perfectly fine when you are living in a world defined by limited resources.

    Just one more of the many benefits of being an athletic 6’3″, 220 lbs, man.

  27. While I’m inclined to agree with you as a matter of general principle, this post was about a specific incident and I don’t agree that society’s general problems require people to censor themselves when discussing the identity bad actors who happen to be members of oppressed groups, especially when the identity of the bad actors is necessary to finding a solution to what is obviously a unacceptable circumstance.

  28. It’s interesting you don’t mention the race of the assailants. On the RUN215 page the witness clearly identified them as black. Why do you indicate their age (teenagers) and sex (male) but not race?

  29. Yeah, wouldn’t want to upset the feelings of the criminals. OK to discern their sex and age though. Let’s be honest, it was a group of black thugs. Way to perpetuate the stereotype, idiots. Maybe run & carry would stop this nonsense?

  30. What about a factual identification of the perpetrators is “Incendiary” My God, they were black thugs assaulting people. Don’t stand up for them! Read the description from the witness on RUN215. It was black thugs. If you don’t want them out of your city, YOU are part of the problem. They’re the ones giving the rest a bad name, not the people commenting on the facts of the situation.

  31. Call it a hunch, but I bet that “REAL PHILLY” lives in beautiful Point Breeze and attends every SPHINC meeting to vote “NO” on all new neighborhood developments. Have a blessed day.

  32. Shut up, stupid. The trail users come in all colors and your suggestion is disgusting. The most brutal beatings I have ever witnessed were committed by people of my color–White. Besides being unworkable, your idea says more about you than anything else.

  33. Oh, just what Black Philadelphians need, another George Zimmerman on our hands. How about letting the POLICE do their job, instead?

  34. Being 6′ 3″ 220 obviously didn’t deter them that much if you were fleeing from them. So what is the over-under for the first full blown rape happening on this trail 1? 2 months?

  35. So because of Black violence we need to have more of our privacy taken away rather than address the problem?

  36. Planning on when to plant crops based on seasonal changes is stereotyping. LOL! Stereotyping is the hallmark of intelligence. Not observing or ignoring patterns is the definition of a lack of intelligence.

  37. “The most brutal beatings I have ever witnessed were committed by people of my color–White. ”

    Always the dubious claim at the ready. Not buying it.

  38. If you ride around the city, this sort of thing is not that unusual. It’s just classic bullying behavior. It’s what boys do to each other in the schoolyard. What it amounts to is scaring people for recreation.

    Put it on the trail, and the boys are black and the victims are white, and it seems to be something scarier, but people shouldn’t be that scared. This is just bullying. And a little police presence, and people taking the time to use their cell phones and call 911, and it will go away — the boys will hang out somewhere else. The community on the trail just needs to watch for it and collectively not put up with it.

  39. “What you can do to protect yourself”

    Get a CCW permit. Next to your iPod you should have a waistband holster with a 13.5oz Ruger LCR loaded with 38 special 158 grain XTP Hornady hollow points. That’s the only thing you can and should do against these gun yielding thugs looking to assault, rob, and rape.

  40. the PPD only shows up to wrap crime scene tape and fill out paperwork. they don’t do shit you idiot and you can’t rely on someone else for your protection. you’re so naive

  41. HUH??? where the F have you been. it is always young black males roaming around doing this shit. it’s not racist to say that, no one is saying being black means you are that. it’s just identifying the demographic that is causing these incidents in Philadelphia.

    last time i checked, white kids aren’t going around playing the black bear game and knocking out black people with a single punch. nope. it’s called the polar bear game b/c blacks are sucker punching white people and recording it for youtube.

    give me a break you politically correct fool

  42. they were black. they were black. they were black. they were black.

    nothing i said is racist. they were black

  43. “What you can do to protect yourself”

    Get a CCW permit. Next to your iPod you should have a waistband holster with a 13.5oz Ruger LCR loaded with 38 special 158 grain XTP Hornady hollow points. That’s the only thing you can and should do against these gun yielding thugs looking to assault, rob, and rape….

  44. i like it.

    “What you can do to protect yourself” (as the article states)

    Get a CCW permit. Next to your iPod you should have a waistband holster with a 13.5oz Ruger LCR loaded with 38 special 158 grain XTP Hornady hollow points. That’s the only thing you can and should do against these gun yielding thugs looking to assault, rob, and rape.

  45. guess you’ve never heard of the polar bear hunting game in philly. hint…it wasn’t white youths roaming around punching black people

  46. yep. stereotyping is a natural survival instinct. every animal stereotypes, every one. it’s how species survived – adapting and changing behavior based on perceived threats and perceived dangers

  47. you’re right – b/c things are going so well over there in Africa and it’s all the white man’s fault. LMFAO

  48. These kids were out there again today…. Popping wheelies on the trail, getting in the way of bikers, and generally intimidating people just north of the boat houses. I ran for quite awhile today and did not see one Police officer. Some of these kids are riding with bandanas covering their faces. Something needs to be done or we will all find a different place to run.

  49. Increased police presence is a positive response to crime on
    the trail. Bring back the mounted Park Guards to patrol the Fairmount
    Park trails. Where the Wissahickon creek joins the Schuylkill river,
    beware there is danger there. People should realize that they cannot
    run or ride alone. The buddy system works best!!
    Joggers need special protection from predators and there is strength
    in numbers. Some white men kill white women.

  50. Hello I am a student from Penn State and I am doing a research project based on crimes that took place on any segment of the Schuylkill River trail is there anyway anyone could suggest were i can find information to help me.

  51. Why not beef up the video surveillance? This is getting cheaper all the time and it is very effective.

  52. Why are Philadelphians so extreme? Is it a northeast thing? I either get “boo hoo microaggressions” or “what do you mean I can’t point my pistol at a black kid he was threatening me by yelling mean inconsequential insults at me” from people here

  53. Yeah that’s right, shoot the teenagers dead, better make sure they’re hollow points so you can kill them rather than be humane and spare their lives.

  54. are you having difficulty reading tonight? getting physically assaulted isn’t “yelling mean inconsequential insults”. what kind of pathetic liberal washed out viewpoint is that?

    the conceal carry law exists for this very reason. to protect yourself against people who want to commit violent crimes against you so you don’t become a victim. a gun is the only thing that will protect you in this situation. mace won’t help against 6 violent black thugs looking to do you hard

  55. I went a bit ad-absurdum, admittedly, but to be honest, I thought that some of the incidents involved verbal harassment and nothing more. Also, your colors as a debater and a conveyor of the “real story” really shows when you say “pathetic washed out liberal viewpoint.” Are you a self defense teacher, or are you getting your situations out of the movies?
    Tactically, when walking out on the street, how much more helpful is a concealed weapon than having none at all, unless you’re counting on the situation escalating? What are you doing out there that you can count on the incident escalating like so- private investigating drug warehouses? Giving nasty looks at people? Is it for being able to say “I have a gun,” (which some kids that robbed me tried before, [didn’t work,]) or is it that you want people to think twice for everybody because it could be a gamble to get shot? How does the weapon ward danger when it isn’t visible? You still have the same appearance. Mobility and awareness of how crime works (what motivates assault as opposed to shootings, how and what kind of environment is it executed in, how to ensure maximum mobility when in an environment that seems lucrative for robbery,) will probably save a lot more trouble than having to go to the police after using a firearm in self-defense, especially if it involves fatal injury by the hollow points you like.

    Sometimes it seems like people think young hoodlums will continue to attack and risk their lives because they’re some sort of ‘roided-out sub-species, so you need stopping power fit for a bull to protect yourself. But I’ll tell you, if I was an angry *black* kid in N. Philadelphia with excess aggression and the knowledge of being considered sub-human by society, the one thing that WOULD keep me attacking a white guy with a gun would be if you pulled the trigger, because I wouldn’t be able to trust that you would spare my life, and if your aim was good enough, that bullet could have killed or instantly maimed someone I knew. That’s how you escalate a situation.

  56. You two should hang out together, you both seem like you have a similar level of conviction and understanding of history.

  57. You impress me, seriously. I forgot how much more humane it is to react to spur of the moment physical assault with lethal force.

  58. If these kids got locked up or killed by police, the streets would be safer. They’ve already chosen their path and criminalized themselves.

  59. “They are children and they’re going to make the mistakes children make, one such is that it’s okay if they act up on people riding bicycles and running on the river path.” Assault and battery and theft is not a mistake a child makes. Criminals make those mistakes. Jail them.

  60. “spur of the moment physical assault” … a “spur of the moment physical assault” is just as bad as the planned physical assault, which is actually what these are … they go to the trails knowing they will assault someone … anyone …

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