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Portland area park visitors report increase in car break-ins

Parks officials warn visitors to not take their safety for granted as visitors report increase in smash-and-grab thefts.

PORTLAND, Oregon — Like so many people, John Taylor cherishes Forest Park in Northwest Portland. It's a place where he can clear his head and breathe in fresh air.

“This is my retreat,” said Taylor. “I come hiking here three days a week.”

Lately, the park has lost a little appeal to Taylor for safety reasons. Three weeks ago, Taylor’s wife parked along Northwest 53rd Drive near Thompson Road and went for a short run on the Wildwood Trail.

“She came back and there were five cars including hers that were broken into,” said Taylor. “They broke both the side window and the back window.”

Taylor said his wife had not left any valuables inside the vehicle so nothing was stolen, but they still had to deal with the damage.

“It's extremely frustrating, it's infuriating,” said Taylor.

And then there's Jay, who lives in the Northwest Heights Neighborhood and rides his bike along Northwest 53rd Drive regularly.

“Just a few days ago I came through and there were three car break-ins here,” he said.

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Jay shared that his daughter’s car was also recently broken into in the same area, though he admits she had left her valuables out in plain sight. He warned his neighbors about the break-ins only to be flooded with messages about their similar experiences around Forest Park.

In nearly every turnout along Northwest 53rd Drive near the Wildwood Trailhead, KGW found broken glass on the ground. In one parking area, Portland Parks & Recreation posted a sign warning people to remove all valuables from their vehicles. 

A spokesperson with Portland Parks & Recreation told KGW they don't have comprehensive data on vehicle break-ins but their response to them includes increasing patrols.

“The cops don't do anything. It's very low priority for them to come out,” said Taylor. “So there really isn't any recourse.”

While it might feel pointless to file a police report, Portland Parks & Recreation said it’s an important way to help them and police track where the break-ins are happening so they can work together on finding solutions.

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Things work a little differently in Oregon's State Parks system.

“We have a really robust tracking system,” said Clay Courtright, district manager with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. 

For example, Courtright said at the Tryon Creek State Natural Area, they’ve tracked around six break-ins in the last six months. In other, more secluded state park areas, he said numbers are higher.

“Wherever you may be in an Oregon State Park, it's a good idea to safeguard your valuables,” said Courtright. “Criminal activity is up nationwide. We want everyone to do their part to keep each other safe.”

Courtright suggested taking what you need with you on the trail and natural areas and leaving the rest at home. He said many people take that basic advice for granted. He warned that crooks often case parking areas and see when visitors put valuables under their car seats, glove boxes or trunks.

“Once you smash the window, [they] have a trunk lever so that's the access to your trunk,” said Courtright.

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