Car break-ins at Mount Pisgah: 'It's much less than it has been'

EUGENE, Ore. - Targeting cars is a science for thieves.

"They'll just watch, and they'll see people get out of their cars," said Tom LoCascio, Mount Pisgah Arboretum site manager. "They'll see a woman take out her purse and put it under the seat, or camera gear or whatever it may be, put it in the trunk. They'll immediately think, that's the car I want to go to."

Over the weekend, citizens took to social media to express frustrations after they say six vehicles were broken into at the popular destination in the county's Howard Buford Recreation Area.

Sgt. Carrie Carver with the Lane County Sheriff's Office said that since June 1, there have been 10 reported thefts from vehicles, two stolen vehicles and one report of a theft outside of a vehicle.

The issue isn't new.

LoCascio said Lane County Parks noticed an increase of thefts and break-ins in the mid-1990s.

In response, the arboretum and county created the Park Watch program.

He said trained volunteers supervise the parking area.

"It's an extra set of eyes and ears for the Lane County Parks Department and the arboretum staff, and really all the people that use the park," he said.

Since the creation of the program in 2009, vehicle break-ins have dropped 95 percent.

"It's not to say that people's cars don't get broken in to anymore," LoCascio said. "It does happen, but it's much less than it has been."

LoCascio said there is no way staff can watch all three parking lots at once, so volunteers help spot suspicious behavior and can report it to rangers.

He said the park and county have had discussions about installing security cameras, but he does not know when or if that will happen.

"If they do get put in, there will be no talk about them being put in," LoCascio says. "The value of security cameras is people not knowing they're there."

He also said there is a cost associated.

LoCascio said the best advice is to take valuables with you or leave them at home.
"I think people need to just be aware of what it is that the criminals think about and need to be careful and vigilant."

He said you can be apart of the solution.

On September 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the White Oak Pavilion, you can sign up to be a Park Watch volunteer. You can learn more on the arboretum website.