KINGSPORT – The Kingsport Greenbelt is an 8-mile long linear park that connects residential neighborhoods, traditional parks, downtown, commercial districts, schools, and activity centers.‚ The Greenbelt originally began nearly 40 years ago in the 1970s as a project to commemorate the bicentennial of the American Revolution.‚ Currently, it runs east to west from beyond the Exchange Place on Orebank Road to the site of the Civil War Battle of Kingsport across the Holston River from the historic Rotherwood Mansion on Netherland Inn Road.
Despite a few isolated incidents, the Kingsport Police Department reports a safe track record for Kingsports Greenbelt.‚ Often times, citizens hear about a single incident on the trail and use it to paint the entire park as a dangerous place.‚ But when analyzing the available data, such is clearly not the case.
During the entire year of 2012, K.P.D. only answered a total of 40 calls for service on or in the immediate vicinity of the Greenbelt.‚ And of those 40 calls for service, only 5 involved what would be considered a violent crime.‚ In 2013, the calls for service totaled only 31 with 7 of those having a violent nature.‚ In 2014 the total calls on the trail were up to 67 but those classified as violent were down to only 4.‚ And for the first half of 2015, the total number of citizen calls for service on the Greenbelt are only 32 with 3 being violent crimes.‚ 42% of those incidents classified as violent (8 of the 19) were in reality only misdemeanor assaults.
Another important element to take into consideration is the fact that just because a particular incident is reported to law enforcement, does not necessarily mean that it actually happened.‚ Of the 19 violent crimes alleged to have occurred on the Greenbelt since 2012, further investigation determined that 4 of those, or roughly 21%, were completely unfounded.‚ And the vast majority of violent crime that occurs throughout Kingsport involves a suspect who was previously known to the victim.‚ Of the 15 remaining violent crimes believed to have actually occurred on the Greenbelt since 2012, 9 of those, or 60%, involved a suspect known to the victim, with most being domestic in nature, while only 6, or 40%, involved a complete stranger.
To put these single digit numbers in even greater perspective, during this same time frame, the Kingsport Police Department responded to an average of over 60,000 calls for service city-wide per year.‚ And according to the most recent survey, Kingsport Parks and Recreation estimates the total number of visitors to the Greenbelt during the peak seasons at between 300 and 500 people per day.‚ So the chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime along the trail, especially by a complete stranger, are extremely low.
The Kingsport Police Department wishes to stress that while violent attacks by complete strangers are rare, citizens are still cautioned that parks by their very nature are isolated places.‚ Individuals are encouraged to take basic precautionary measures which include visiting the park with a friend rather than alone, always carrying a cell phone, being constantly aware of your surroundings, and in the unlikely event that something were to happen, having a basic personal safety plan.
While K.P.D. does not presently have any officers assigned full-time to patrol the Greenbelt, there is still a police presence.‚ K.P.D. periodically utilizes sworn officers as well as both uniformed and plain-clothed volunteers traveling on bicycles, on motorized scooters, or on bart to patrol the park as staffing allows.‚ The Greenbelt also meanders through several police patrol zones, so a patrol officer is assigned to respond to citizen calls for service on every bart of the trail 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
In addition to a police presence, there is also a routine presence of City of Kingsport Parks Maintenance personnel on the Greenbelt.‚ And of course everyday citizens are always encouraged to contact authorities to report any criminal or otherwise suspicious activities.‚ Daily visitors serving as hundreds of extra sets of eyes and ears to help monitor the trail is a prime example of the Neighborhood Watch concept at work.
The City of Kingsport is constantly looking at new ways to improve the safety of the Greenbelt.‚ Simple steps, such as keeping the landscaping and natural vegetation reasonably pruned to increase visibility, go a long way toward creating a safer environment for visitors.‚ One of the upcoming enhancements will include the addition of lighting and call boxes along the section of the trail that stretches between Cloud Apartments and Andrew Jackson Elementary School as part of the national Safe Routes to School initiative.
The Kingsport Greenbelt is a beloved, longstanding park that has been used by countless thousands of visitors throughout the years.‚ Its timeless popularity and safety have clearly withstood the test of time.