COLUMBIA - Car break-ins and other vehicle-related crimes are becoming more common in the parking lots of Columbia parks and trails. They doubled between 2014 and 2016.
"A lot of the crimes we have don't really involve the trail, but it involves the parking lot where people leave their valuables laying out on their car," said Michael Griggs director of Columbia Parks and Recreation.
Parks and Recreations Planner Janet Godon said there is no specific reason why larcenies have gone up, but there has been an increase in the number of people using the parks and trails around town.
In 2011, 30 larcenies for motor vehicles were reported at park and trails parking lots. The numbers decreased from 2011 to 2014 by more then half. The numbers have gone back up since then, finishing at 31 larcenies reported in 2016.
The majority of the larcenies committed from 2011 to April this year happened at Clary-Shy Community Park at the Activity Recreation Center and Cosmo Park, which had 23 in the past 6 years.
Godon said she avoids taking personal items and leaving them in her car when she goes for a run in a trail.
"I personally plan ahead. If I know I am going to the trails to exercise. I don't take anything with me except for my drivers license," she said. "If you don't have that luxury of planning ahead, and you do have your wallet or your purse with you, then lock it in your trunk, or at least hide it, shove it under your seat or put something over it. Just don't leave it laying open in the seat of your car for someone to see."
The Department of Parks and Recreation asks people to enjoy the city's parks and trails safely by following these guidelines:
- Inform people where your going and the time
- Be familiar with the trail before going by yourself
- Take your phone
- Go with someone
- If listening to music, keep one ear bud off your ear, so you can hear people trying to pases you on trails
"First thing is to make yourself more familiar with the trail or park that you are going to, and that will happen by going there more often, calling somebody to go with you on walks," Godon said.
"The advice I give to my daughter is to go on trails that are heavily used, which most of our trails are heavily used, and of course, always going with a buddy is your best bet," she said.
Griggs said the tip about ear buds is especially important while bilking, running or walking.
"If you love listening to music, and you put both ear buds, it becomes dangerous because, if I am riding my bike, coming up behind you, I like to shout out an warning," he said. "If you got ear buds in and music blaring, you can't hear me and if you step up in front of me and I am ridding my bike, we will have a collision."
Taking a cellphone while on a trail is a good idea since the department is not investing on future 911 phone booths.
"With everybody having cellphones, and things like that, it's something we don't usually plan for on future trails. Maybe, only at a trail head in the parking lot."
Despite all the precautions, Parks and Rec says the parks and trails in Columbia are safe and often have a lot of traffic.
"I see people in some of our trails at all hours. I sometimes ride home late at night and I see runners up using the light of their cellphones to alert cyclists," Godon said.