AUSTIN (KXAN) — Caleb Remington regularly brings his dog, Charlie, to Barking Springs. The section of water just east of Barton Springs is a regular spot for people who want a place to cool off their four-legged friends.

The swimming hole, and nearby Zilker Park, are well-populated destinations for enjoying Austin’s weather, but they’ve also become a popular spot for criminals.

“It’s pretty common for me to come to Barton Springs, take my dog swimming, and find broken glass in the parking lot,” Remington said.

That was the case Sunday afternoon. A man who filmed a vehicle break-in, who didn’t want to be named, told us someone in a black Honda CRV broke the passenger window of a Ford Bronco parked in the lot off of Andrew Zilker Road and William Barton Drive around 4:30 p.m.

What appears to be a young female in the backseat of the car can be seen yanking a purse or backpack out of the passenger side of the Bronco before getting back in the black CRV and taking off. The suspect’s vehicle has paper plates.

The Austin Police Department created a parks-specific crime dashboard earlier this year. It shows there are more crimes reported at Zilker Park than any other city park, with Mt. Bonnell coming in second. Theft is the most reported crime at and near parks overall by a significant margin. The dashboard shows “crimes against property” in the last year have gone up 25% from the previous year.

“I came to this unit in 2014 and I’ve been here since then and I’ve seen gradually getting worse, it was a problem then and it’s still a problem now. It’s just we have a lot more of it, a lot more folks here in town also,” Detective Jared Manning with the Austin Police Department said.

Manning is the only detective assigned to investigating burglary of vehicles in south Austin, he told us. There used to be three detectives for the job, but staffing shortages have limited investigation resources.

The Austin Police Department also got rid of its Parks Police Unit in 2020 to push people back to patrol amid staffing shortages, something Manning said seems to have made the problem worse.

Meanwhile, some members of the Public Safety Commission and the Parks and Recreation Board are teaming up to look at public safety right now and to bring solutions before Austin City Council.

“I take the safety of residents in our parks seriously. Everyone should feel safe in our city’s public parks,” Council Member Paige Ellis, District 8, said. That’s the district that covers the Zilker Park area. “My office is in communications with the Austin Police Department to discuss improved safety measures to address resident safety concerns. We’ve also heard from District 8 advocacy groups proposing several safety initiatives that we are looking into as viable solutions.

While we work on these strategies, we encourage the public to take caution by making sure not to leave valuables visible in a vehicle and to stay aware of their surroundings while enjoying the park.”

Manning said if you do become the victim of a car burglary, report it to the police department using 311 or the police department’s online reporting tool, which Manning said is typically faster than 311.