Rangers say other vehicle-related crimes are on the rise in area parks
The East Bay Regional Park District Police Department has released a sketch of a woman suspected of stabbing a 29-year-old El Cerrito man in Tilden Park on Monday.
Park police say they believe the woman may have been the victim of serious crimes herself and may need assistance.
A visitor to the Berkeley park reported the stabbing, which happened at about 2 p.m. at the end of Brook Road near Lake Anza. First responders found Andrew Ting stabbed several times in the chest and neck.
Ting was taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland where he is in stable condition and is expected to recover fully from the knifing. Ting told officers he picked up the woman and drove to Tilden Park, where she stabbed him while they were parked inside his car.
After the woman stabbed Ting she took off in his car, a gray 2001 Honda Accord coupe with a California license plate number of 4SHX791. The car may have a roof rack.
The suspect is described as a blonde white woman, approximately 19 years old. Her hair was in a ponytail at the time of the stabbing, when she was wearing a blue shirt and jeans. While many East Bay residents visit regional parks in Berkeley and Oakland to hike beneath the redwood and eucalyptus trees, crime in the park is on the rise — especially vehicle break-ins and robberies.
“It's on the rise, probably throughout the Bay Area,” said Jeff McKenna, a park ranger at Redwood Regional Park in Oakland. “People have their guard down because it's not a city street,”
As a result, they tend to feel comfortable leaving money, jewelry and other valuables in their cars.
Although the park's public safety department has not conducted a formal analysis, the daily incidence (in reference to car break-ins) logs show that throughout all 59 regional parks, robbers broke into 23 autos in March, compared to 13 in the same month last year — a 77 percent increase.
Robberies like these have popped up mostly in parking areas around Tilden, Wildcat Canyon, Redwood and Roberts Regional Parks as well as The Lafayette-Moraga Trail, said Lieutenant Pete Small of the park police. He said that park thieves often turn out to be drug addicts and take anything that can be quickly resold. Purses, wallets and backpacks that can be seen from the otherside of a window invite break-ins because of the money and jewelry that might be waiting inside. While many robbery victims end up with a smashed window, lost cash and a headache from canceling credit cards, others end up worse.
In early April, a robber pried open the door of a car parked near the Lafayette-Moraga Trail and got away with a purse carrying a diamond ring. The police estimated an $8,000 loss.
To stop these break-ins, the Special Enforcement Unit of the park police sets up undercover officers to watch cars in areas of repeated crimes. In other cases, they set up “bait,” like a purse sitting on a car seat, and hide in nearby bushes. A few weeks ago officers two people busting into a car at the Tilden Golf Course parking lot. When police catch thieves, they often find jewelry and money stolen from previous park break-ins, Small said.
He suggested that the best way to keep property safe is to keep it out of the parks.
“We recommend that people leave valuables at home and only bring ID on their person,” he said.
Small said 55 officers patrol the regional parks, which includes 1,000 miles of trails and about 92,000 acres, an area about 20 times larger than the city of Berkeley.
The park police often work with local city police to catch robbers, said Jeff Wilson, superintendent of Tilden Regional Park. Wilson said that the number of break-ins has remained consistent in Tilden over the past couple of years. But he said now more thieves than usual are active.
“It's usually one or two people. Right now it's two or three groups of people working the same places,” he said.