SAMMAMISH, Wash. — As the weather gets better, more people are starting to hit the trailheads throughout western Washington. However, while you're out and about, your car is left all alone in the parking lot, and more and more vehicles are getting broken into, according to the Washington State Patrol (WSP).
Soaring Eagle Park in Sammamish is Mike Stadther's happy place. Although, he admits his love for hiking these types of trails is declining because of an uptick in smash-and-grab crimes.
"It's unfortunate,” said Stadther. “It takes what should be a really nice day and turns it into something really negative very quick.”
The WSP said smash and grabs are happening more often at trailhead parking lots throughout western Washington just in the past year.
"There were tons of smash and grabs through the fall and winter season and it's usually always an uptick in the summer because there's more people that venture out to these trailhead areas," said WSP Trooper Anthony Reese.
State troopers said there are several reasons for the jump in smashed windows, including people leaving valuables visible in their cars. Another reason could be there are times law enforcement can't pursue the criminals in question.
"Lots of criminals are more emboldened now with some legislation changes,” said Reese. “They know that law enforcement cannot chase them unless it is a violent crime. Property crime is not considered a violent crime.”
The WSP is working with other law enforcement agencies to increase patrols at trailheads. Some communities have even started their own community trailhead patrols to be an extra set of eyes. Stadther said people just need to be better.
“They need some help," said Stadther. "Maybe try to go get help elsewhere other than coming and taking peoples' things."
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission shared the following tips to keep hikers safe from trailhead car prowls:
- Park in well-lit areas
- Do not leave any valuables in your car
- Make sure doors and trunk are locked
- Report any signs of worrisome behavior
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Store your registration in your trunk or lock box that is attached to your vehicle
- Create a safety circle when you go on a hike (tell someone where you’ll be and how long you anticipate to be gone)