Watch out for trail-head thieves

I noticed a lot of broken glass last summer at trail-head parking lots, and last Friday I arrived at the parking lot at 123rd Ave. W. (Ely’s Peak, Munger Trail, Superior Hiking Trail) to meet a few folks who just had their car robbed.

So here’s your reminder to hide your valuables before leaving your vehicle and hitting the trails, unless you’re on a stakeout and plan to finally nab this punk (or these punks) in the act.



about 10 years ago

There were six car break ins in the last week at Lester Park, four at the Park Point Recreation Area, three at the trailhead at Ely's Peak, two at Park Point's Franklin Park parking lot, and one at Snively.  

I think Lester Park takes the crown on this one.

Is this a normal rate of car break ins at parks in Duluth?  Do the police think that the same group is involved in going from park to park, or is it different people?  Is the MO the same or different for the break ins?


about 10 years ago

We were broken into at Ely's peak two years ago on father's day.  I put my purse in the back of the van.  I doubt they could even see it.  But broke out the back window.  The funny thing is 3 cars over there were two purses sitting in site in the back seat.  Just bad luck.  Sounds like some thieves are liking the idea of abandoned parking areas.


about 10 years ago

A couple years back, we stopped at Enger Tower to take photos of the newly planted flowers.  We were within eye shot of the parking lot for 10 minutes.  Walked out of view by the picnic area with the fire place a minute and heard what sounded like broken glass and then a car speed away.

Yep.  The one car in the parking lot when we arrived had just sped out and they cleared the back seat of everything fast.  Couldn't even cancel the credit cards faster than they could use them.   The police arrive and it was pretty much cut and dry.  We weren't the first and weren't gonna be the last either.

Now I see it on the streets all the time too.  I keep nothing of value in my car anymore.

Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

Dugglass's anecdote points out something kind of obvious I didn't think of before. The thief is likely to be parked in the lot when you arrive. That's how the thief knows you're not likely to return at any moment, having watched you arrive and march off. 

So it might not be a bad idea if you carry a camera to shoot photos of any cars that are in the lot when you arrive. If you come back to find one of your windows smashed you'll at least have a suspect, though not really a slam-dunk case.

It sounds like a crummy thing to bother with doing, but it is probably one or two people doing this. Catch the bandit and we can go back to our carefree lifestyles for a few months until the next one comes along.

Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

Then again, if the thief is spying and sees you take the photo it will probably deter the theft rather than lead to a bust, so I'll go back to the drawing board.


about 10 years ago

I've heard a rumor that there is a land owner near the Ely's Peak parking lot that tries to keep people away by breaking car windows. No thefts, just breaking windows. But again, just a rumor.


about 10 years ago

Good idea about snapping a few pics of cars. 
I was around the Lester area last week taking pics. 
I was smart to lock my purse in my trunk before I arrived at the destination but really what does that do when they break a window and gain access to the trunk latch inside. Silly me.

Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

Nate, the land owner you are speaking of had issues years ago with people cutting through his property to get to Ely's Peak, but I think the new trail that was cut has settled that issue.

The smashed windows in relation to thefts probably fueled that rumor, but I'm sure it's just a rumor and the property owner is not smashing windows.


about 10 years ago

Ah ha. Oh rumors......


about 10 years ago

We were at the Ely's Peak parking lot Sunday and saw the glass, which must have been from Friday's break in. That sucks.


about 10 years ago

It's not just the park. Someone riffled through our beater vehicle in Lakeside a week or so ago. It was parked next to the garage. Nothing stolen, we think. 

And not sure where the car was parked, but I'm told some idiot stole the case/charger to some stream monitoring equipment -  valued at ~1500.


about 10 years ago

Came across a 2010 mention break-ins on Mountain Project's Ely's Peak page. Of course, this was right after I parked there to hike to the top. Scared me off of going back there, which sucks. I've been trying to stick to more visible and heavily trafficked trail heads and pull-overs, not that it probably helps anything.

If anyone wants to try a hamfisted sting, let me know! You do the parking, I'll figure out some kind of camouflaged camera. This really sucks.


about 10 years ago

I just saw a bunch of broken glass at the trailhead to the Congdon trail near Superior street. It was strange, though, because the glass was on those stairs that go down by the creek, which was quite a ways from the road. It still looked a lot like car window glass though. That's too bad that it's happening all over. I guess I'm lucky I walk from my house.

Thanks for the heads up! Now I'll know to be careful next time I drive to a trail. My dog gets carsick and pukes though, so that's a strong deterrent, haha.


about 10 years ago

We discussed this issue during the Parks & Rec Master Plan process, but no solution was proposed, as far as I know. Just this morning I was talking with friends about whether solar powered surveillance cameras exist? Trailhead/park break-ins may not deter trail/park use by residents and visitors, but it's certainly an unpleasant inconvenience.

Paul Lundgren

about 10 years ago

The Duluth Police Department has just issued a news release on the subject:

Police alert citizens to increase in vehicle prowls Duluth Police have seen an increase in vehicle prowls and thefts from vehicles. As the weather gets warmer, favorite areas targeted by vehicle prowlers are parking areas associated with beaches, trails, golf courses, and other recreational sites. Police want to remind citizens to lock their vehicles, remove valuables, and report any suspicious activity to 9-1-1. Vehicle prowls are crimes of opportunity and can occur anywhere, at any time of the day or night. A vehicle prowler makes a split-second decision to break into a vehicle based on the observation or perception that there are valuables in the vehicle making it worth the risk. A vehicle prowl can be completed in less than one minute. Most (not all) neighborhood vehicle prowls occur between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Vehicle prowls associated with recreational areas tend to occur in the late afternoon and early evening. Vehicles are usually entered through an unlocked door or by breaking a window. Vehicle Prowl Prevention Vehicle prowls are one of the easiest crimes to reduce with increased awareness. The following preventative measures will reduce the chances of being the target of a vehicle prowl: * First and foremost, never leave valuables including bags, purses, wallets, briefcases, laptops, cell phones, etc. in your vehicle. Keep the interior clean and don't leave anything that may appear valuable (box for iPhone, envelope from bank, etc.). * Don't store or leave credit cards, identification, or personal information in your glove box or anywhere in your car. Remove garage door openers, key cards, and house or work keys from the car so the car prowler cannot gain access to your home. * If you must leave valuables in your car, place them in the trunk before you get to your destination. * Before leaving you parked car, roll up the windows, remove the keys, lock the door, and set the alarm (if you have one). * Try to park in busy, well lit areas. Avoid parking near anything that limits visibility like dumpsters, large vans or trucks. * Report any suspicious activity to the police. One of the most important things you can do is report all suspicious activity to 9-1-1 and encourage your neighbors to do the same. If your car is broken into or there is a vehicle prowl in progress, call 9-1-1. With your help, vehicle prowls will go down and police have a better chance of catching those responsible.


about 10 years ago

In the Lester/Seven Bridges Road area there was a crappy maroon sedan with a really busted windsheild and a couple unsavory types driving up and down the road 2 weeks ago.  Fresh broken glass at the pullout at bridge 3.  

On Monday there was a lady showing a policeman her freshly broken window with glass on the ground.  I was biking up the hill and as I rode past this scene I heard - and then saw - the small dirtbike motorcycle ride across Skyline above me and the driverlooked down at this scene and sped off.  

My plan is now this: remove all valuables from the vehicle, leave the doors unlocked and a $5 bill on the floor.


about 10 years ago

Happened to me at St Luke's in West Duluth.

Thiefs saw me hobble out of the car with my almost broken ankle, and found me to be an easy target.

Still not sure why we decided to park on the far end of the lot instead of right by the door.


about 10 years ago

Several bikes ripped off in the last week. Don't trust a cable lock on your roof rack!

Friend had his car broken into at the top of Seven Bridges in the parking lot at the end of the Amity Creek trail this week.


about 10 years ago

I'm sure you have all seen this: 


Duluth News Tribune: "Duluth man charged with theft in vehicle prowl"


about 10 years ago

That character looks like a real winner. I was lucky enough to not have my car broken into at the Ely's Peak lot last winter. I won't be going back  unless I bike there I guess. I don't think taking pictures of other cars will do any good but if you have a glove box that locks I'd suggest that. Otherwise a good hiding compartment/spot and car alarm. Always try and park somewhere with cameras even if it requires a bit more walking.

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