Theft at parks a growing problem

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By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

With acres of prairies, miles of trails and bison roaming the land, the Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park is one of the most popular destinations for nature lovers. Each day, hundreds of visitors flock to the largest Metro Park to enjoy all of its attractions and amenities and for the most part, they are able to do so without a hitch, but lately some undesirables have been spoiling their good time.

At a recent Pleasant Township board of trustees meeting, park manager Kevin Kasnyik reported that there has been a rise in vehicular break-ins at the park and he wanted potential visitors to be aware of that unfortunate fact.

“It is happening all over the place,” he said after township chair Nancy Hunter asked if the break-ins were isolated to one section of their parking lots.

Kasnyik said what appears to be happening is that would-be burglars are scoping out the parking lots and waiting until the visitors are out of sight. When they are, they break into their vehicles and steal their wallets or purses because many park-goers tend to leave their valuables in their trunks so they do not have to carry many items as they walk, jog or bike the trails.

Peg Hanley, spokeswoman for Metro Parks, said that to deescalate the problem, they would be installing additional mobile cameras in the parking lots and putting up signs to warn visitors of the problem.

Hanley said that vehicular break-ins at Battelle Darby are extremely rare.

“During this time last year, there was only one reported break-in at the park,” she said.

There have been six reported incidents so far this year.

“It is very unfortunate that this is happening,” she said.

Sgt. Rick Hardy with the Grove City Division of Police offered some safety tips for park visitors.

“Always try to be aware of your surroundings,” he said. “Drive around the parking lot before you get out of the car and if you see someone sitting around in their car, don’t let them see you put anything in your trunk.”

He said if you cannot take your wallet or purse with you on the trail, put your belongings in the trunk before you go to the park.

Hardy said some people are hesitant to do that for fear if they are pulled over they will be in trouble for not having their license on them, but he said that is not the case.

“As long as you can provide proof that you have a license and tell the officer it is in the trunk you will be fine,” he said.

Hardy said locally, there have not been any issues of vehicular break-ins and he credits that with an increase of park patrolling by the police department and the Park Watch program.

Kim Conrad, the director of the Parks and Recreation Department, said the Park Watch program is a collaborative effort with the division of police to educate park visitors about suspicious activity. She said while it is educational in nature right now, they hope to establish more of a volunteer type program in the future.

To report suspicious activity at any Grove City Park, call the police non-emergency line at 277-1710. To report suspicious activity at the Metro Parks, call the Park Dispatcher at 620-1865.

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