If nothing else, we'll create a feeling of safety on the trail. —Provo Police Chief Rick Gregory
PROVO — Police will have more eyes and ears on the Provo River Trail by next week thanks to a small army of yellow-shirted volunteers who will patrol the trail on bike.
The Provo Police Department introduced its mobile bike team on Tuesday afternoon at Paul Ream Park. The volunteer team is the brainchild Lee Houghton, a Provo father who's lived near the Provo River Trail since 1991.
Houghton said he was upset by violent crimes committed on the trail, and he is sympathetic to the families of victims whose children come to Provo to attend BYU. "The idea a family is hurting when they sent their kid to school" sparked his plan for the bike riders, he said.
In February, a woman running on the trail was raped at knifepoint, and in 2010, a woman who was near the trail was raped and brutally beaten.
"We've got a great police department," Houghton said, "but there are only so many people, and the budget is only so big."
Currently, there are 15 volunteers, with 30 more in training or set to begin training soon. Houghton said he hopes to have the volunteers riding out on the trail by next week.
"It seems that anytime something bad is said about Provo, it has to do with the Provo River Trail," he said.
Provo Mayor John Curtis said he's often asked by residents what they can do to help their city. He praised Houghton for recognizing a need and coming up with a solution.
"He really did what we need residents to do," Curtis said. "He saw a need … and he came up with his own road map."
Provo resident Stephanie Killpack and her mother, Kathy Hindmarsh, live by the trail and are among the first wave of volunteers.
"People are going to be aware that more people are watching," Killpack said. "I'm hoping that we can reduce crime on the trail."
Killpack and her mother have previously been involved in a mobile watch program that allowed residents to patrol their neighborhood by car. The program, which began in 1998, currently has about 50 volunteers.
Mobile bike team volunteers underwent background checks before participating in mobile watch training, as well as training with the Provo bike patrol. The volunteers will be unarmed and will be advised to not engage or pursue people involved in suspicious activity.
Provo Police Chief Rick Gregory said he believes the Provo River Trail is safe, but having the volunteers monitoring it will be "important."
"If nothing else, we'll create a feeling of safety on the trail," Gregory said.