With a growing number of car break-ins, officials at the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area are using new license plate-reading cameras to crack down on thieves.
The park, which stretches 48 miles, touches four counties and covers more than 10,000 acres, is a paradise for metro Atlantans who want access to nature in the big city, but Park Rangers know that the elements of the city are never far away.
“It’s an urban park, but we have these little gems that are out of town, so unfortunately you have urban crime that seeps into the park,” Chief Park Ranger Jeston Fisher said. “Everything that happens outside in metro Atlanta happens in Chattahoochee River; it’s just on a different scale.
According to figures provided by the National Park Service to WSB Radio, 63 cases have been reported to park rangers this year alone, compared to 13 in 2021 and 28 in 2020. That’s not counting the number of reports filed with local agencies. who could have answered. to calls.
Fisher believes the actual number is higher because the thieves are targeting multiple cars simultaneously. However, not all victims file a report, especially if they do not notice that something has been stolen.
Authorities see sophisticated criminals as well as “smash-and-grab opportunists.”
The park has seen an increase in visitor numbers since the start of the pandemic. The latest estimates show that over 3.3 million people visit each year. With 15 trailheads and 63 miles of trails, there are plenty of options for would-be felons, but rangers have found they tend to target Cobb and Fulton counties the most.
“The park is just loved to death, which is great, but it also hurts some things,” Fisher told WSB’s Jonathan O’Brien.
With the recent increase in criminal activity, the Park Service has deployed license plate reader cameras made by Flock, which share data with local partners and have contributed to several arrests.
“I know of at least four arrests that have been made this summer that are related to people who hit the park,” Fisher said.
Criminals often watch their victims; in many cases they are dressed in running or hiking gear to blend in. Fisher said you should always assume you’re being watched and always hide your belongings.
“If it’s valuable to you, leave it at home or take it with you,” he added.
TIPS TO PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR BUSINESS:
1. When parking, always assume that someone could be watching you and protecting your vehicle.
2. Manually lock your doors rather than using a key fob. Criminals can clone your key fob signals to enter your cars undetected.
3. Don’t leave high-end merchandise in plain sight.
4. Do not leave firearms unattended or unsecured in your vehicle. Don’t advertise that you might have a gun with bumper stickers or other decals.
5. Do not bring passports, social security cards, or other valuable identification documents to the park. It’s best to leave items like these at home in a safe.
6. Place your valuables/purses/bags in your trunk *before* entering the park. Criminals can watch you put stuff in your trunk.
If you must leave items in your vehicle, separate the items in several places.
7. If possible, take valuables with you on your walk, hike or run. Again, the best thing to do is leave your valuables at home.
If you return from your hike, bike ride, or float and your car is broken into, please call the park dispatch at 770-992-6585.
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95.5 News anchor and BMS reporter