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Welcome to the trail of fears, cameras

Ah, there is nothing quite like taking in the many charms of nature while on a refreshing and exhilarating bike ride — the birds, the wildlife, the glorious bloom of Florida flora, the blue skies embracing the beauty of our beloved community.

And let us not forget the occasional mugging, just to make sure the consumers of the Pinellas Trail get the full measure of the urban zeitgeist.

In a pocket of St. Petersburg, what was originally intended as a respite from the mean streets, has devolved into a public safety challenge requiring the installation of surveillance cameras to protect riders and walkers from criminals.

After a rash of thefts and beatings on the trail between 43rd and 49th streets S, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has announced plans to spend roughly $100,000 to install about 24 surveillance cameras along the stretch.

Not to tip off the miscreants, but don't you suspect if the bad guys see the cameras between 43rd and 49th streets, they might well simply shift the mayhem to be conducted before 43rd Street and/or after 49th Street? It's merely a guess.

It is an unfortunate commentary that something conceived as a recreational benefit for residents to exercise or merely take in a bit of nature has to be turned into yet another cautionary tale where people find themselves at risk. But it's for good reason.

In 2013, police reported nine robberies on the stretch of the trail and four more violent encounters in 2014. What does this tell us? Perhaps, A) there is no respite from evildoers bent on evildoing and B) maybe communing with nature and exercise are overrated.

City officials had expressed hope Pinellas County would pitch in and help with the cost of the cameras. Hope is always a very nice thing, but county officials took a pass. So Kriseman was left by himself holding the brass knuckles.

We all want to feel safe. We all want to have recreation areas where we don't have to worry about becoming a crime statistic. And while the installation of surveillance cameras might serve as a deterrent, perhaps the best way to navigate the 43rd to 49th street trail of fears is to either get a really good head start prior to entering the cone of concussions or wait at either end until a large mass of hikers and bikers have gathered in order to provide some safety in numbers.

But don't forget to smile for more cameras than it took to film the subway chase scene in The French Connection, while you admire — but not for very long — a flock of pelicans flying overhead.

Welcome to the trail of fears, cameras 07/11/14 [Last modified: Friday, July 11, 2014 10:55am]

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