AUSTIN (KXAN) — Mount Bonnell is one of the most popular destinations for visitors, but when people leave their cars behind and head up to see the panoramic views, that’s when criminals strike.
This is just one of many popular locations that has had issues with car burglaries around Austin.
“We evaluated the crimes that were occurring in parks and within 50 feet of them and 70% of those crimes last year in 2022 were crimes against property,” said LeAnn Ishcomer, park ranger program manager for the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department.
“It is close by, it’s convenient, it is just a beautiful area,” said Laurie Darilek when talking about Mount Bonnell.
While the beauty attracts visitors, the number of cars left behind as people hike to the top is attracting thieves.
“We were unaware of the break-ins,” John Darilek said.
A quick scan of the parking lot at Mount Bonnell and you will see shattered glass everywhere. Some old, but some fresh from recent break-ins.
Longtime Austinite John Ferrick has taken it upon himself to warn others who visit.
“I will see people and I say where are you from? I am from New York, I am from Kazakhstan, I am from New York, you know wherever and I just say go and get your stuff. Why? It will be gone,” said Ferrick.
The city is hoping to fight back against these crimes with a new security camera pilot program, not only at Mount Bonnell, but other popular locations as well. Some of the other locations include Edward Rendon Park, Rainey Street, Barton Creek Greenbelt and Mayfield Park.
The city launched the program earlier this year, crews installed 10 cameras in total.
“The district representatives, as well as some of the detectives over in the burglary units, do have access to these cameras to solve crimes,” Ishcomer said.
The Austin Police Department tells KXAN that the cameras are helping provide valuable leads to some of the burglaries. Police have been able to identify people involved with several vehicle burglaries. Also, the cameras have helped with a missing person case.
A check of the city’s crime map shows that last year from July 1 to Sept. 20, people reported about 80 car burglaries in a 1,000-foot radius of Mount Bonnell. Since the cameras went up, the map shows about 20 car burglaries in that same time period.
Maria Farahani said she hopes to see more cameras added soon.
“I think more needs to be done,” she said. “It has deterred a little, but there are still some blind spots that get hit.”
“In terms of camera placement and number of cameras at each site we are coming up with their determinations by evaluating data at each site year-by-year,” Ishcomer said.
The pilot program will run for six months, and then the city will review how the program is working.