The public probably underestimates how much crime occurs in parks and forests, reports The Oregonian. The lure of a remote, sparsely populated space draws marijuana growers and car burglars just as it does hikers and hunters. “Apparently, lots of people like to hike and camp. And they’re not all nice people,” said Joanne Tynon of Oregon State University, who studies crime on U.S. Forest Service lands.
Officials say parks, campgrounds, and forests are probably safer for most visitors than the neighborhoods they left behind. Visitors should simply be aware and prepared but not frightened. “It’s safe for citizens,” said Jordan Fisher Smith, a retired park ranger. “It’s not safe for rangers.” Being a law officer in a park is statistically more dangerous than being an FBI agent. Rangers are more than 10 times more likely to be assaulted or killed than federal Drug Enforcement Administration officers. Four National Park Service officers have been killed on the job in the past 10 years. Unlike urban police, park rangers often can’t call for backup because the nearest help may be an hour or more away — and possibly out of radio or phone contact in remote areas. In one violent crime last week, at Oregon’s Crater Lake, a 38-year-old Californian, was shot and killed in a crowded campground southwest of the park’s volcanic crater.