Police are warning visitors to Griffith Park, after a summer of increased car break-ins that left a number of tourists in rental cars without their belongings.
The break-ins are happening in the areas of the park that are most popular, from the Griffith Park Observatory to the playground off Crystal Springs Drive, and anywhere in between where visitors leave valuables in plain sight.
Morgan Huneck, an LA resident, was one of those visitors, getting ready to hit the trails of Griffith Park on Tuesday.
“My dad is visiting from out of town and I want to show him the good things of LA, and it’s a beautiful day,” Huneck said. “We want to go hiking.”
But the things that make it a beautiful day for a hike also makes it an ideal day for thieves.
“People are out. They want to get out,” said Los Angeles Police Department detective Michael Ventura. “They want to hike. They want to socialize and they want to enjoy all the park has to offer, so it’s proportionate. The more visitors we have, the more crime we have.”
For that reason, the LAPD says property crimes usually increase during the summer — but for some reason, the break-ins have dramatically increased this year in Griffith Park.
“Thieves target property left in plain sight such as luggage, purses, electronics, laptops, expensive sunglasses, even passports,” said Gary Walters, commanding officer for LAPD Northeast.
That’s why police want to get the word out to either leave valuables at home or lock them in the trunk, which is what Huneck did on Tuesday.
“I’m used to it,” she said. “I’m familiar with living in big cities. Prior to here I lived in Chicago.”
For Joanna Murphy, visiting from Britain, it’s a new experience.
“We live in the southwest of England, where it’s very low crime,” she said.
The crimes happening in Griffith Park are smash and grabs that happen in a matter of seconds, but there has so far been no contact between the victims and the thieves.
To avoid having your vacation hurt by missing valuables, police recommend keeping those important items out of sight while enjoying the many attractions Griffith Park has to offer.
Police say the thieves are part of an organized crime subgroup from the Bay Area, which uses rental cars to drive to tourist destinations around LA. The LAPD is working with police in Oakland and San Francisco to track down the suspects.