Police say they have a person of interest in one of three high profile incidents that have happened on Knoxville's greenways in the past month. Officers aren't releasing the suspect's name until they consult with the district attorney's office about charges.
The latest in the string of incidents happened on the Jean Teague Greenway, which is located behind the West Knoxville YMCA, at around 7:30 p.m Monday night. A park visitor spotted a man walking behind a woman with a knife. When the visitor asked the man what he was doing he ran off, and the witness alerted police.
KPD Lieutenant Shawna Williams says they do not believe the cluster of incidents are connected. The first happened on August 14th when a woman walking in Ijams Nature Center in South Knoxville was sexually assaulted. The second happened on September 4th when a woman jogging along a greenway near the UT campus says a man grabbed her breast and ran off.
Police say they have a strong presence in Knoxville's parks and greenways thanks to a program instituted in June 2012. So far this year, Williams says they've logged 2,656 park patrol hours. But Williams says they can't be everywhere at once, and the last thing they want is for fear to keep people away.
"The last thing we need is natural surveillance to go down. The last thing we need is the good users of the parks to walk away from the parks and greenways. We need people to be out being the eyes and ears," said Williams.
She does urge visitors to be cautious. She advises runners to only wear one headphone so they can hear what's going on around them and to tell a family member your running route and when you should be back.
Runner Hilary Salas got similar tips at a running safety workshop she attended last week at the Runners Market in Bearden. Her husband signed up after hearing about the recent trouble.
"And I'm very glad he did," said Salas. "It makes you think about things because most of the time you just want to go about your daily life and your routine and you forget to observe your surroundings and that's when things can happen."
In addition to good reminders, like running with a buddy in well lit areas, Salas says she learned self-defense techniques.
"I feel a little more, I guess you could say, confident," said Salas.