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Danger on the trail?

Women concerned police withholding information about assaults from public

Tara Kearsey
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 02/02) - A group of women have chosen not to walk on the Frame Lake Trail alone after hearing random assaults have been committed in the area.

Linda Young regularly walks home from work on the Frame Lake Trail, but is now having second thoughts about it after hearing a woman was badly beaten in the area. - Tara Kearsey/NNSL photo

Kelly Robertson, Linda Young and Donna Yonge attended a dinner party July 25 where a friend informed them she had heard from a friend of the wife of an RCMP officer that two women had been randomly attacked on the Frame Lake Trail recently.

One of the women was assaulted so brutally, heard Young, that her teeth were knocked out and she had to be medevaced out of Yellowknife for medical attention.

When contacted by Yellowknifer, RCMP Sgt. Al McCambridge said there have been assaults on the trail, but said there has been "no drastic increase" and "no identified crime wave in that area."

McCambridge said he could not say if there had been any attacks on the Frame Lake Trail recently unless he pulled up every police file from this year.

"And right now I think our file load is higher than 4,000 for the year.

"Specifically, by date, we don't have that on our system that I can target it. And in all honesty I don't have the resources to pull the files and see what we have," he said.

The executive director of the Yellowknife Women's Centre says McCambridge's comments are completely false. She said for the past three years in a row now there have been reports of assaults of a physical and sexual nature occurring on the Frame Lake Trail.

'Assaults happen regularly'

"For the RCMP to say there is no identified crime wave in that area is not accurate. It's maybe not a new crime wave but it's a consistent place where assaults have happened," she said, adding those assaults are of a physical and sexual nature.

"And the RCMP hardly ever or never seems to warn the public much about conditions that exist like that.

Hache said the only time the RCMP reveals information to the public is when "it is something that they wish to toot their horn about," such as the massive drug busts that occur every few years, she said.

"But in terms of public safety the RCMP, in my experience, haven't issued warnings that you would expect in other jurisdictions.

"We don't believe that (the RCMP) have the protection of women and children as their top priority in Yellowknife or in the Northwest Territories," said Hache.

Meanwhile, Robertson, Young and Yonge, who walk and jog on the trail virtually every day, are also disturbed the RCMP is not informing the public that assaults have occurred in the area.

"At least if you have the information then at least you can choose whether you go on the Frame Lake Trail by yourself or not," said Robertson, adding she will be warning every woman she knows about the potential danger of walking on the trail alone.

She is worried now that Yellowknife may not be as safe a place to live as she originally thought. Robertson regularly jogs on the trail alone.

"I go running at six every morning and I don't see that many people. So I'm thinking hmmm, do I have to change my schedule because lack of information is making me have fear that maybe I don't need to have," she wondered.

Robertson understands the RCMP are very busy, but said even if ten of the 4,000 files deal with assaults that occurred in the Frame Lake area, then that's reason to be fearful.

Yonge agrees with her friend. She believes any time there is a threat to public safety it's the RCMP's responsibility to ensure the public knows about it.

When the ice is thin in the spring and if there is a bear in the area, she says, the public is informed about it. Yonge doesn't understand why the authorities would act any differently if individuals are being assaulted on a busy public trail.

"I only wish the RCMP would let us know when these things occur. I think it's their duty and would be interested in knowing why they choose to keep it confidential.

"It's better that we know. It could save a life," said Yonge.

Young says the RCMP are acting irresponsibly by choosing not to inform the public of such events.

"I'm going to be a lot more alarmed if I'm assaulted than if I am being told not to use the trail ... even if they just provide awareness to let us know to be more careful," she said.

All McCambridge could recommend is that people use "diligence and caution" when walking on any path or street where individuals can appear vulnerable to any potential attacker.

"You have to use caution, especially after bar closing and things like that where it's dark and isolated. You don't want to be in a place where you're vulnerable and you put yourself at risk, not only from predators of a human nature but predators of a non-human nature as well."

Cops need to give more info

Robertson and her friends agree the RCMP should provide more information to the public to ensure the possibility of preventing further attacks.

"Having more information is better than no information."

Yellowknifer received a call from a local woman Thursday morning who said she had received an e-mail from another female friend informing her that attacks had occurred on the Frame Lake Trail.

The woman said she contacted an RCMP constable but he could not confirm the attacks.

The woman, who walks on the trail with her young child, said she will be passing on a warning to her friends.