Knoxville police increase bike patrols at Ijams Nature Center

Knoxville police increase bike patrols at Ijams Nature Center

Posted:
Bicycle officer Steve Kaufman is part of the Knoxville Police Department's parks and greenways unit that was formed last year. Bicycle officer Steve Kaufman is part of the Knoxville Police Department's parks and greenways unit that was formed last year.

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Police patrols at Ijams Nature Center were increased Thursday following a sexual assault at Ijams Nature Center.

A young mother says she was sexually assaulted on a trail Wednesday afternoon. The suspect is still on the loose.

The 24-year-old woman said the man attacked her, cutting open her shirt with a knife and knocking down her two-year-old daughter.

The victim was released from the hospital Wednesday night.

The park was full of visitors again on Thursday.

Police say they are still reviewing evidence from the scene. They are asking the public to report any suspicious vehicles seen parked along Island Home Avenue Wednesday afternoon.

Bicycle officer Steve Kaufman is part of the Knoxville Police Department's parks and greenways unit that was formed last year. He patrols the trails at Ijams on his bike several times a month.

"It's generally very safe," he said.

There have been only two other police reports from Ijams in the last year and a half. One was a theft from a vehicle and one was a case of vandalism.

That's why Kaufman says he was surprised to hear a sexual assault had been reported there.

"It's something very unusual, very disturbing," he said.

Kaufman says bike patrols at Ijams will increase. There is also a Knoxville police officer who lives on site.

"He kind of keeps an eye out on the park during his off hours," said Ijams Executive Director Paul James. "Unfortunately, something like this could happen anywhere at anytime so we encourage you to keep your wits about you and be familiar with your surroundings."

James says employees and officers do their best to keep the center safe.

"We make sure that the trails are well maintained, that areas are clear of debris, that trails are well-marked," he said.

With 300 acres and 10 miles of trails, the 13 employees and hundreds of volunteers can't be everywhere at once.

"And that really wouldn't be consistent with an urban wilderness experience," James said. "People come here to get away from other people."

James says nothing else like Wednesday's assault has been reported at Ijams in the last 20 years.

He recommends all visitors carry a trail map and cell phone.

There is a security camera watching the parking lot and that footage is being reviewed by police.

The Knoxville Police Department says the description of the suspect does not match any other crimes in the area, but they're hoping the details will help track him down.

The suspect is described as a white male, six foot one and about 185 pounds with a goatee and a distinctive scar through his left eyebrow.

When last seen he was wearing a dark blue hoodie over a white collared shirt, blue jeans, white sneakers and a black skull hat.

If you have any information call (865) 215-7212.

Meanwhile, police have some tips to help keep you safe.

  • Be aware of your surroundings and be suspicious of anyone dressed out of season, like wearing a sweatshirt in the summer.
  • Let someone know what trails you will be on.
  • Make sure headphones are not too loud.
  • Keep your kids in sight.
  • Don't go alone. if possible.
Powered by WorldNow

1306 N. Broadway NE Knoxville,
Tennessee 37917

Telephone: 865.637.NEWS(6397)
Fax: 865.525.4091
Email: newsroom@wate.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Young Broadcasting of Knoxville, Inc. A Media General Company.