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Frustrated hiker compiles list of most crime-targeted trailheads in western Washington

Car break-ins and thefts at trailheads are becoming a growing problem. One man decided to document this and found the most targeted trailheads in our area.

SEATTLE — As the sun comes out, trailhead parking lots are starting to get packed with cars. Car break-ins and thefts at trailheads are becoming a growing problem. One man decided to document this and found the most targeted trailheads in our area.

"Is hiking safe? Absolutely. Are there some really bad trailheads? Absolutely," said the man, who asked not to be named for safety reasons, 

He started compiling vehicle break-in data last year after seeing windows smashed at a trailhead.

"The next weekend 25 cars were hit and I got really angry and I decided to do something about it," he said.

Using public information requests from law enforcement and the Washington Trails Association.  

"So I was able to compare the number of trail reports at a trailhead against the reports that mention crime," he said.

This list shows the five most targeted trails with data from 2015 through 2022. All are no more than a two-hour drive from Seattle.

  1. Whittaker Wilderness Peak Trail Head: Cougar Mountain 
  2. Tiger Mountain Trail Head South: Tiger Mountain
  3. Nisqually State Park: SW- Longmire/Paradise 
  4. Chehalis Western- Woodard Bay Trailhead: Olympia
  5. Pine and Cedar Lakes Trailhead: Bellingham

"Thieves now know that cars left unattended at trailheads are a great place to find purses, passports and laptops," he said. 

Because of the rise in smash and grabs, Washington State Patrol increased its presence last summer. Hikers like Rubin and Sudha Mishra said they don't leave any valuables in their cars. 

"I think about it less on a fairly crowded trailhead like this than I would if you're in a place with four cars parked and not a lot of traffic coming, that's a much bigger concern," said Rubin.

"I feel if there is a break-in, I have everything with me," said Mishra.

The citizen report said it's not just hikers impacted by these break-ins.

"If we can get better solutions for trailheads, it would also make a dent in crime in general," the man who compiled the list said. 

He believes there are small changes that could help prevent these smash-and-grabs such as more signage, cameras and even hiring a crime analyst. 

"One of the things I'm calling for is a very modest increase to the fee for a Discover Pass," he said.

With the goal of getting more people out on the trails. The full report will be released Thursday night, along with a Facebook live meeting to go over those findings. 

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