CrimeTracker 10: Crime Stats Show Trends In Local Parks
Random attacks on trails, a vicious fist fight over a game of basketball, and trash cans set on fire.
While they are all dangerous, the most common crime 10TV uncovered at suburban parks – car break-ins.
Elaine Forrest was running a few minutes late for her son's baseball game at Huber Village Park on the evening of June 12.
She parked in a lot to hike to the baseball field and says she tucked her purse in the console.
“Something told me is it hidden well enough? It's lower, it should be fine. No problem,” says Forrest.
Forrest says a couple hours later she was walking back to her car when she noticed something strange.
“And there's just glass everywhere, all over the floor, all over the ground, and I got up to the car and looked inside and my purse was gone,” she said. “And I was just like devastated. I wanted to scream. I think I might have screamed.”
CrimeTracker 10 pulled police reports from eight cities outside of Columbus - Worthington, Westerville, Gahanna, Pickerington, Grove City, Hilliard, Dublin and Upper Arlington.
We looked at crimes that took place between July 1, 2013, and now.
10TV found Westerville police investigated at least ten reported cases of vehicle break-ins at public parks, compared to 11 in Hilliard and 12 in Dublin.
10TV also found drug crimes in public parks - 14 in Westerville, 11 in Pickerington, and one offense in Grove City. The reports also revealed physical assaults in the parks - 4 in Westerville, one each in Grove City and Pickerington.
In many cases, the assaults appear to be random acts of violence.
Several other cases stood out during the investigation.
In Grove City, a 16-year old girl told police she was just walking on a bike path, heading home from school, when she was attacked by two teenage boys, who she says threw her to the ground.
She told police the boys were "laughing" as they "kicked and punched her."
On June 20, police arrested a 25-year old man for exposing himself to people at the Gahanna Creekside Festival, including two girls, ages 14 and 15.
In Westerville, police filed felony assault charges against former basketball standout Devon Moore, accused of breaking a man's jaw after a pickup game of basketball at the Westerville Sports Complex.
Westerville police say in December, a man was walking on this bike path north of Schrock Road when a stranger asked for a cigarette. That person then punched the victim in the head. He fell and hit his head on a concrete bench.
“We get a lot of visitors into our park system. So when you look at the people who've been victimized, it's relatively small but still unacceptable,” said Westerville Police Chief Joe Morbitzer.
Morbitzer says although crimes are not uncommon in our neighborhood parks, they are safe to visit with your family. There are simple ways to protect yourself from becoming a victim
“Lock your doors. Put stuff out of sight in your cars and then as you're walking to your car, either walk in pairs or make sure you're aware of your surroundings.”
Forrest says in the future, she's going to make sure she doesn't leave any personal belongings in her car, so she doesn't fall victim again. “I felt like we lived in this safe place in Westerville. It just makes me mad, angry.”