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Provo City employs art to help fight river trail crime

(Stuart Johnson, KSL News)


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Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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PROVO — City leaders Saturday unveiled a couple of unique ways they hope will help keep crime down along the Provo River trail: murals painted underneath 2 bridges along the trail.

The trail is a popular place for runners, walkers and bikers to get in some exercise. But in the past, it has been plagued by crimes ranging from graffiti and tagging to and muggings and assaults.

Police and city leaders are hoping the murals attract more people; and more people in an area, they say, is a natural deterrent to crime.

The murals, located at the Columbia Lane bridge and the 820 North bridge, were painted by Jess Smart Smiley. With just a few thousand strokes of a paintbrush, and less than a month of his time, he said he felt like he had made a difference.

"It's amazing, yeah. It feels good," Smiley said. "I wish all my paintings could work like this."


I don't think it will solve all the problems, but it brings more people on the trail. And the more people that are on the trail, the bad guys tend not to show up.

–Sgt. Mark Crosby, Provo PD


One of the murals features Provo residents and places; the other showcases things to do in the area. Smiley's friends Robert James and his wife, Melissa — both Provo residents — said they were honored to be pictured a painting.

"I feel specially privileged that he would care enough to do that," Melissa James said.

But the paintings are for more than just fun. They're purpose is to keep crime in these two spots to a minimum.

"We had one incident where we were painting, that one of the gals walked through, and she says she never runs through the trail on this particular area, through the tunnel, (because) she didn't feel safe," Provo Police Sgt. Mark Crosby said. "But since the mural's been up, she says she feels safer and she runs through the tunnel all the time."

Of course, city leaders aren't naïve. They know a couple of paintings aren't going to solve crime. But they do think the artwork will help.

"I don't think it will solve all the problems, but it brings more people on the trail," Crosby said. "And the more people that are on the trail, the bad guys tend not to show up."


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