Georgia county to add 47 cameras as part of increased security on Silver Comet Trail

Aug. 07--Two weeks ago, a Paulding County woman was nearly unrecognizable after a brutal attack on the Silver Comet Trail. And investigators have no idea who is responsible for the assault, although a reward fund has grown to more than $20,000.

But the Paulding County Sheriff's Office said Thursday it is increasing security on the trail, including the addition of 47 real-time cameras, in hopes of preventing any further crimes."This is one of our assets for our county, and we can't allow people to stop using them because of this," Cpl. Ashley Henson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The additional cameras will soon capture action along the 18 miles of the Silver Comet Trail that runs through Paulding County. Sheriff's deputies will monitor those cameras, and two Smart cars will ride along the paved trail, Henson said.

The new security plans come two weeks after Tina Waddell was attacked while walking, an assault that shattered bones throughout her face. Waddell's attack prompted some to stop using the popular trail, Henson said. But county leaders hope the heightened security will make the trail a continued destination.

Waddell's attack was one of only two serious crimes that have occurred in the county on the trail, that began opening in 1999. Eight years ago Jennifer Ewing, taking her regular 50-mile ride, was raped and murdered. Michael Ledford was convicted of killing Ewing on July 25, 2006 and is now on Georgia's death row.

Cobb County police said there had been only one report of an assault, on a middle-age man on a bike who suffered minor injuries at the hands of several teenagers.

Plans to improve safety on the trail have been previously discussed, Henson said. But the recent attack on Waddell has prompted immediate action, he said.

After the additional cameras are installed, the county plans the second phase to improve the technological infrastructure on the trail by extending the fiber optic network two miles to the Cobb County line and three miles to the west, the Sheriff's Office said. Once that is completed, about 10 more camera stations are planned, Henson said.

The Sheriff's Office plans to ask the county's Board of Commissioners for a $275,000 for the cameras, followed by up to $400,000 for the second phase of improvements, Henson said. The money is expected to come from penny-sales tax funds dedicated to parks and recreation.

In Cobb County, there are no cameras on the trail, but police officers periodically patrol on bicycles, ATVs and motorcycles, a spokesman for the department said. Those wanting to enjoy the trail can best protect themselves by never going alone, Officer Mike Bowman said.

"Go in pairs," Bowman said. "A group of people is much less likely to be targeted."

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