MODESTO -- Virginia Corridor regulars and occasional visitors took the news of potential danger in stride. On a sunny Saturday afternoon, with a steady stream of joggers, bicyclists and dog-walkers passing by, women said they felt safe and were enjoying the day.
Most had heard of recent police reports that two women had been groped three weeks ago by a man on the Briggsmore pedes- trian overpass and a similar-looking man was seen last week by the trail.
A regular jogger who often ends her run after dark said she was relieved to see police cars near the trail Saturday. Arianna, who did not give her last name, usually jogs with boyfriend Joseph Hebert.
Hebert said he's more likely to skip a day, but had exercised faithfully over the past three weeks.
"I'm so glad I wasn't being lazy. I'd feel horrible if she'd been out here by herself," he said. He wondered why no one was told of the attacks three weeks ago.
The couple said they sometimes see the homeless or "tweakers" on their corridor runs, but have never had any trouble.
Crystal Niedert, pushing 2-year-old son Justin in a stroller, said she walks every morning.
"Some people creep me out, but I have my phone on me at all times," she said.
Running on the downhill side of the pedestrian bridge, Mark Peters pulled out his earbuds and said he does run at night.
"I do pay attention, even with my headphones. It's reasonably safe," he said.
A woman walking the trail said that after reading about the groping incidents she had thought about getting pepper spray. But with her arthritis, she said, it might end up being used against her.
"Just be aware and try to enjoy the walk," advised Leslie, who gave no last name.
A group of four walkers, including Bay Area friends, joked about leaving the city only to land in a hotbed of crime. Cindy Hopkins said it was her first time on the four-mile walking and biking trail, but felt safe with her friends.
Kimberly Grace, walking to the store and back to her home just off the trail, said the same.
"Can't live in fear all the time, I guess," Grace said with a shrug.
Modesto police Lt. Rick Armendariz said people should be aware of their surroundings when outside for walks or runs, carry a cell phone and go with a partner or friend when possible.
Police described the attacker as black, in his late teens, about 5 feet 7 inches tall, with a slim build, an Afro hairstyle and long sideburns. He was carrying a backpack and was wearing a large brown sweater, black jeans and headphones.
Police ask anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636. People can email tips through the Crime Stoppers website, www.stancrimetips.org, or text tips to CRIMES (274637) by typing "Tip704" plus a message. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward.
Bee staff writer Nan Austin can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2339, on Twitter, @NanAustin.