I have worked in local news in the Washington, DC, region for 10 years. I am an encyclopedia of the bad things that could happen to a person and the crazy incidents which have occurred in this region during that time. My job now in great part is to find out and report the bad and the good things that happen in and near the City of Hyattsville.
After 20-year-old Catherine Alvarado of Chillum was found murdered on the Northwest Branch Trail just outside of the city limits on New Year’s Day, discussions about trail safety were a little more tense. Police arrested a man she was previously in a relationship with, so the crime was not random nor do they believe she was exercising. Both of these details say a lot about how much residents should change their daily routines after hearing what happened to Alvarado.
It is not in the best interest of our quality of life to avoid the trails and live in fear. They are used by many people daily. It is good to be aware of crimes that have occurred. Don’t listen to music on the trail; be aware of your surroundings. Visualize what you would do if someone jumped out at you. But, don’t let them stop you from using the trails.
Crime happens even in the most coveted or expensive parts of the region. When there has been a small uptick in certain types of crime and in different areas of the city, the Hyattsville City Police Department has communicated that crime and calls for service in the City of Hyattsville are overall on a downward trend.
After a series of incidents earlier this year, I almost let them scare me away from using the trails. Instead, I bought a safety whistle and mace, both of which I carry with me on the trails.
I also put all the phone numbers of local police on my phone as shortcut keys. The Hyattsville City Police Department (HCPD) emergency number is 301.985.5050. The non-emergency number is 301.985.5060. In most other jurisdictions, the emergency number is 911, though to get directly to the Riverdale Park Police Department, dial 301.927.4343. Put these numbers in your phone, and if you can, as direct dial shortcuts on your smartphone.
It is also important to understand what city you are in on the trails you use, because it could add a few minutes the response time for a 911 dispatcher to route your complaint to the correct police department. There are many places where the trails change jurisdiction. The recent murder happened in a little section of the Northwest Branch Trail that sits in unincorporated Prince George’s County between two sections of the City of Hyattsville. A sign on the Rhode Island Avenue Trolley Trail marks the change from HCPD jurisdiction to Riverdale Park just after the little Arts District playground. For the trails you frequent, check the maps to figure out when you leave the city limits and know which neighborhoods you travel through.