Bike patrol unit coming to Columbus to prevent sexual assaults on Riverwalk

Published: Nov. 4, 2022 at 10:53 AM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Muscogee County Sheriff Greg Countryman took to Facebook to announce his latest efforts to prevent crime in the Fountain City, specifically in Uptown Columbus. That effort includes more cops on two wheels.

Sheriff Greg Countryman says he’ll be hiring more deputies to work along the riverwalk, including more bike patrols - after recent crime reports in the area.

Sheriff Countryman says the need for more patrol is in light of multiple recent sexual assaults. Many people who spend time on or near the riverwalk, say they’re glad something more is being done to help.

Pretty soon, there will be more deputies with the Muscogee County Sheriff’s office patrolling the Riverwalk.

“I think it’s good. I think having more police is typically a good thing. They lead to safer environments,” said Columbus resident Drew Pyburn, who occasionally walks on the Riverwalk.

The move to hire more and develop a bike patrol unit comes as authorities say crime reports in the area are on the rise.

“We’ve been having people exposing themselves. We just had, just recently, about a few months ago, we had a lady that had her pursed snatched. And in the process, she had her wrist broken and of course, we had nobody down here at the time to maybe prevent that,” said Muscogee County Sheriff’s Deputy Gary Marshall.

In July, 28-year-old Javion Howard of Columbus was arrested and charged with four counts of indecent exposure and violating his probation. Police say the arrest came after Howard allegedly exposed himself on the riverwalk.

Last year, officials say a woman was sexually assaulted while jogging on the Riverwalk near the Civic Center. Shaquille Tyree Smith was arrested and charged with rape, kidnapping, aggravated sexual battery and more.

“It’s horrible. Hopefully police department or sheriff’s department -- whoever’s doing the patrols -- can help actually lower that issue,” Pyburn adds.

Deputy Gary Marshall is currently the only Muscogee County Sheriff’s Deputy who patrols the area on bikes. He says there are a series of tasks people must go through before landing the position.

“They have to go through some testing, a bike class, an ATV class so we can have them out there on the river walk to help me out,” said Deputy Marshall.

While patrolling the area, he often runs into homeless people. But, he says they’re working to relocate those individuals to safe place that can help them.

In the meantime while more bike patrol deputies are hired, Deputy Marshall says the goal is to ensure safety in one of the city’s tourist attractions.

“We’re here to give the runners, the joggers, the cyclists, a little bit more relaxation, relief knowing that we have some type of law enforcement out here to prevent any type of potential harm on them,” Deputy Marshall adds, confident the bike patrols will prevent crime in the area.

Anyone interested in applying to be a bike patrol deputy, should contact the department.