Officials call student walkway "definite danger"

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  Over train tracks, through the woods and down a long cement path- that is how children who walk to Marshall Middle School and J.D. Davis Elementary get to class.

Situated between a scrap metal yard and the Havenbrook Court apartments, the path is also where Columbus Police say a man was urinating, turned around and exposed himself to two little girls making their way to school two weeks ago.

"We've been trying to look out as much as possible. However, it's basically impossible to guard it 24 hours a day and even during the time the kids are at school but we're doing the best we can at this point," said Keith Henry, who manages the Havenbrook Court complex on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The pathway is littered with trash and it's not very well lit, especially in those early morning hours when children are walking to school. On top of that, police say the area where the man exposed himself drops off and is not very visible from the road.

Columbus councilman Pops Barnes says the city is looking at structural improvements on the bridge but for him, the condition of the rest of the walkway was quite an eye opener.

"This area right here is isolated and particularly with the children traveling that area early in the morning hours- it's entirely too dark. We need to have better lighting and we also need to have patrolling here during the hours that the children are going back and forth to school. It needs to be an area that is constantly monitored because people just throw trash there and it's filthy and it's an area for rats and vermin and we need to have it cleaned up," Barnes told News Leader 9.

"We need to have safety for our children in our surrounding areas. We need safety for everyone but certainly most important are our children," Henry added.

Councilman Barnes says he guarantees a work detail will be dispatched to the area first thing Friday. City departments were closed in honor of Veterans Day Thursday.

Meanwhile, members of the Columbus Police Department's Sex Crimes Division are working to identify the suspect.

He is described as a black male about 5'7", dark skin with a bald head.

He's believed to be 20 to 30 years old and was wearing a white and blue collar shirt, jeans, and tan colored Timberland boots.

Back in April, a 19-year-old girl told police she was taking her trash out at the Havenbrook Court apartments when she taken from the complex by two armed men who forced her to have sex with them in a nearby abandoned house.

Afterwards, the victim says the men let her go and told her if she called the police, they would kill her.

She says her alleged attackers were black men- one in his 20s and one in his 50s.

©2010 WTVM. All rights reserved.