Crime in parks? Mostly minor, officials say

Crime in the national parks?

“There is some crime. But, fortunately, there is not much violent or serious crime in the nation’s parks, preserves, and historical sites,” Bill Line, communications officer for the National Capital region, stated.

The National Park Service does face challenges in the areas of environmental crimes, traffic safety, and urban setting crimes in those parks that are in an urban location.

Click on the video at the right to view an audio slideshow about the nature of crime in national parks narrated and prepared by writer Sunny Middleton. Photos courtesy of the National Park Service.  

The types of crimes that take place in the parks are generally directly related to the location of the park. Parks in remote locations tend to have drug trafficking issues and environmental crimes such as illegally dumping waste.

Parks in more urban settings such as in the National Capital region deal with theft, traffic violations, and minor violence.

Even those parks that have a seemingly pleasant setting such as Biscayne National Park in South Florida face crime.

  At left and next below, diving and boating are very popular in Biscayne National Park, but boaters tend to abuse the activity.  Visitors who leave their cars for long periods of time are susceptible to car break-ins (Photos courtesy of the National Park Service).

One of the most-visited national parks in the United States is Rocky Mountain National Park and with the number of visitors, the park is likely to end up with crime or illegal issues.

“We do not have much crime at Rocky Mountain National Park. The most common type of crime we have is Traffic Violations. Measures we take include traffic enforcement through active patrol, use of radar (both stationary signs and vehicle radar units), signing (speed signs, slow signs, etc.), educational information in publications about winding roads and wildlife and speed, etc.” Kyle Patterson, spokesperson for Rocky Mountain National Park, stated.

Rocky Mountain sees about three million visitors annually and violent crime has never been much of an issue. However, in 2010, there was a violent assault on a trail runner who was luckily able to fight off her attacker. The park increased ranger patrols in the area in which the woman was attacked, according to The Outside Blog.

The park service maintains safety through rangers assigned to law enforcement in each park. These rangers are specially trained and equipped for a wide range of unusual situations that may threaten public safety.

National parks as a whole are prepared for most situations and, if a surprising violent or illegal situation arises, park officials tend to fix the problem immediately by increasing enforcement and or punishing the violators.

According to the 2010 Rocky Mountain National Park facts and figures brochure, there were 1,195 law enforcement incidents including accidents, warnings and citations in 2010. The sheet had no mention of serious crimes that would deter travelers from visiting the park.

The type of crimes in the parks typically coincides with the setting of the park. As for the coastal national parks, most crimes are environmental. Biscayne National Park in Florida faces crimes that have to do with the setting of the park and its general location.

“We have some issues that have to do with why our park is here and what it is here for, and we have some issues that have nothing to do with what our park is about,” Gary Bremen, Biscayne National Park spokesperson and interpretive ranger, stated.

One aspect of crime in Biscayne is the recreational aspect such as fishing, boating and the consequences that follow.

“Law enforcement deals with a variety of things like fishing violations, poaching issues, and boat pollution,” Bremen stated.

Side effects of allowing boats into the park can lead to environmental issues and sometimes environmental crime. Boat leakage is typically not a willed blow on the environment but it can lead to boat owners facing fines.

The other aspect to the recreational activities in Biscayne National Park is reckless boating. The park takes precautions by strategically placing signs in the bodies of water and enforcing boating laws.

However, reckless boating still remains one of the top issues for park rangers. This can include speeding, entering prohibited zones, and/or boating activities like water sports.

The harder to monitor crimes in Biscayne are not necessarily the most common types of crime, but they are dangerous and relational to the setting of the park.

  The roads of Rocky Mountain National Park can be quite dangerous during different times of the year, especially winter. Visitors tend to violate traffic law, though, even in good weather conditions.

“On the other hand we have problems with smuggling, people smuggling illegal immigrants. In recent months we have had a lot of car break-ins. Someone will wait for a group to leave their car while they go off to snorkel and will break into their car. My car even got broken in to right here in the parking lot,” Bremen stated.

Some crimes are simply unavoidable in regards to the park enforcement. The most common types of crime can be halted with the help of society and the visitors that choose to visit the national parks. With a bit more precaution and respect, national parks could be near perfect.

Comments are Closed