With his family, he has been riding bikes, walking and fishing on the Provo River trail near their home for 13 years.
Now, Lee Houghton and his family have seen the change on the trail as clear as night and day.
“The last few years, you’ve heard more and more of criminal activity that was occuring on the trail,” Houghton said.
Several crimes occurred recently along the trail, including an unsolved rape in February. Houghton said several of his friends will not go on the trail when it’s dark or without a friend. This stigma prompted Houghton to help with the Provo Police in patrolling the trail on bicycles. So, in late February, Houghton and several of his friends met with Police Chief Rick Gregory.
“Maybe we just need more people on there that are actually looking out for other people,” Houghton said, “to make sure they’re OK.”
Gregory said he loved the idea.
“Of course, we were thrilled to have citizens participate with us,” Gregory said.
In partnership with the Provo Police, Mayor John Curtis and Mobile Watch, Houghton has started the Provo River Trail Patrol cycling program. Houghton said the formal training will begin on March 20 and hopes to have at least 20 volunteers by then.
Sr. Officer Kreston Bascom said the application process for volunteering has intentionally been made easy to accommodate college students within Utah Valley. Volunteers will go through safety training, lasting a couple of hours, perform a background check and then they can hit the trail.
“When they want to go on their patrol, they report to us, and we record their hours,” Bascom said. Easy enough. The initial 20 volunteers will be great, Houghton said, but the more volunteers the better.
“Initially, we’ll probably have enough to staff the evening hours,” he said. “But we’d like to grow that into lunchtime into earlier morning.”
The rape in February happened in the middle of the day. Bascom would like this added measure of security to prevent crime in daylight.
“If we can have a constant and continual presence of citizens serving their community, making it a better place,” Bascom said, “that would be a goal for us.”
Provo Police Chief Rick Gregory said he’s grateful for this “partnership with the community.”
The Provo Police will help with the training from Mobile Watch. This will train volunteers to watch out for and look suspicious activity along the trail. Gregory hopes for the volunteers to be an “extra set of eyes and ears for the department.”
Houghton wants this volunteer opportunity to be as low pressure and meaningful as it can be for volunteers.
“Give me one hour a month, or two hours a month,” Houghton said, “and that’s all I really need.”
For information to volunteer for the Provo River Trail Patrol, visit the Facebook fan page, “Fans of the PRP.”