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The Guardian Angels, a citizen-led safety patrol, monitered the Met Branch Trail in 2011.


Met Branch Trail

Washington, D.C.
Length: 8 miles
Two-mile section opened in 2010.

For more information, contact the District Department of Transportation.


Case Study: Crime and Urban Pathways

Download four-page PERSONAL SAFETY summary
Return to Focus On: PERSONAL SAFETY
Return to Urban Pathways to Healthy Neighborhoods

Met Branch Trail, Washington, D.C.

A long-awaited section of the Met Branch Trail (MBT), connecting Northeast D.C. neighborhoods to downtown, opened in May 2010. The trail runs in a formerly neglected, light industrial section of the city along wide swaths of active railroad tracks and Metro, D.C.'s light rail system.

Before the trail was constructed, neighborhood residents and potential trail users were concerned about crime and personal safety. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT), the trail manager, responded to these concerns by designing the trail to include large, frequently spaced solar panel lights. In addition, illegal graffiti was rampant along the corridor. DDOT partnered with the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities to begin a large-scale mural project adjacent to the trail, and illegal graffiti ceased to exist where murals were installed. However, illegal graffiti covered many of the new light posts and the trail itself. Although it is a constant struggle to eliminate vandalism on the trail, persistent efforts by DDOT and community members to remove the graffiti and to install more public art resulted in a steady decrease of illegal graffiti.

Shortly after the trail's grand opening, RTC created an online listserv for trail users and neighborhood residents as a way to share information about the trail, monitor conditions and report any incidents of vandalism or misconduct. Soon after, a few disturbing incidents occurred. Personal items were stolen from trail users, some visitors were verbally harassed and physically attacked. Community residents and trail users became concerned and fearful of using the trail. In partnership with DDOT and other neighborhood groups, RTC convened a community meeting with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). MPD increased patrols on the trail, and DDOT installed portable cameras near locations where incidents were occurring frequently. The number of incidents decreased that year but persisted a year later. Concerned trail users joined forces with the Guardian Angels, a local citizen-led crime prevention group, to patrol the trail. By combining regular trail patrols with consistent trail programming and activities, fewer incidents of violence occurred. Combined with CPTED, these efforts will help ensure a safe and welcoming trail for years to come.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) on the Met Branch Trail:

"Every place where there is access to the trail, where there are neighborhood streets, we tried to beautify those connections. Because they had previously been dead-end streets, they were places where businesses kept their dumpsters, illegal parking was going on, so we removed the dumpsters and parking. Where we could, we put parks or gateway connections to the trail. We also did community events and community outreach so people knew about the trail and would come from the neighborhood, because the best way to keep it safe is to have people using it."
     —Heather Deutsch, Bicycle Specialist and Trail Planner, DDOT

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
The Duke Ellington Building
2121 Ward Ct., NW
5th Floor
Washington, DC 20037