Police: Burglars targeting city parks




Posted on January 22, 2014 at 7:13 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 22 at 7:20 PM

AUSTIN -- One of Austin's popular dog parks has become a hot spot for car burglaries. According to Austin Police, it's not the only park thieves are targeting.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Norwood Estate Dog Park in South Austin was full of regulars.

"It is easy to feel a very comfortable sense of almost 'home' here," said dog owner Rebecca Sharpton.

Even with plenty of "watchdogs" on site, as of late, these park users are on edge.

"I personally haven't experienced anything, but it's pretty clear there's concerns for people's things and belongings," Sharpton said.

Austin Police told KVUE over the last few weeks at least eight car burglaries have been reported at Norwood Estate alone.

"That's my glass, shattered everywhere," Camille Sanders said, pointing to a pile of glass in the lot.

Sanders visits Norwood Estate every weekend. On Saturday afternoon, burglars broke into her SUV.

"They stole my purse, and it had my wallet, credit cards [and] IDs in there," Sanders said.

Sanders said at least one other park visitor got hit that day.

"She had her front window busted in. They stole her purse as well," Sanders said, pointing to another pile of glass.

Similar piles lined the parking lot, and police have also put up temporary signs to warn park users. The signs read, "Police warning: This area is currently a target for burglars."

Police said the break ins aren't just happening at Norwood Estate. They're happening across the city.

"In areas like Norwood Park, Mt. Bonnell, you will see broken glass, evidence people have been broken into," said Austin Police corporal Art Canizales.

Canizales said city parks make for an easy target, especially when the weather is nice and parking lots are full.

"They'll watch to see who is putting things in the cars, putting things in the trunk, or whatever, and generally just looking into windows to see what they can see," Canizales said.

Park users are already taking notice of the warning signs.

"I try to come during the day," said Sharpton. "It's almost daily there's more broken glass."

"It is very frustrating because you work hard to get your things," Sanders said.

Sanders said she learned the hard way, and from now on, she won't leave anything behind.

"I'll have to take it with me now," Sanders said.

If you can't take your belongings into the park, police advise to just leave them at home.

Police couldn't say exactly how many of these burglaries have happened over the last month, because many are on streets surrounding the park, and they frequently go unreported.