With the summer months here, the Howard County Police Department and Columbia Association are partnering to keep Columbia’s 93.5 miles of pathways safe while people are enjoying the outdoors. While police have not seen an increase in crime in these areas, these efforts are intended to increase police visibility and deter problems.
Residents who use the pathways will have a new resource in an emergency to direct help to their exact location. The police department and Columbia Association, along with recreation and parks, have labeled all bridges on trails in the county to speed up emergency response. The signs are an extension of a program that already included all county and CA tot lots.
New signs have been placed throughout the trail system with alphanumeric codes. When a caller connects to a 911 dispatcher in an emergency and provides a code, the dispatcher will see a marker on a computer map of that sign’s location
“Time is of the essence in an emergency situation,” said Police Chief William McMahon. “Sometimes just a few minutes can make all the difference. This will enable our first responders to find a person in trouble, even without a specific address.”
In addition, the partnership now allows for the association’s extensive pathway system to be patrolled by HCPD’s volunteer mounted patrol unit as an extra set of eyes and ears for law enforcement efforts.
“This is the time when people are outdoors and enjoying the open space pathways and amenities,” added Sean Harbaugh, assistant director of Columbia Association’s Open Space Management Division “I believe that the extra sets of eyes and direct communication between the volunteers, HCPD and Open Space Management will certainly help reduce the few unwanted activities that occur.”
The volunteer mounted patrol unit is comprised of 12 local volunteers and their horses. The unit provides assistance to police by conducting mounted patrols using personally owned horses and tack. Volunteers assist in investigative, administrative, and community service functions and events.
The police department also is adding additional bike patrols on the Columbia pathways throughout the summer. Some officers who work as school resource officers during the school year will spend the summer months riding through Columbia’s pathways and parks, as well as the area around the Columbia Lakefront and the Mall in Columbia.