Signs warn people of thefts along the Swamp Rabbit Trail. (July 10, 2012/FOX Carolina)
GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -
Greenville County's Swamp Rabbit Trail has become the new hot spot for walkers and bicyclists looking for exercise. Now, the area may also be attracting criminals, but they're not going after the people on the trail. Instead, they're targeting what those exercising have left behind.
They're breaking into locked cars, smashing out the windows and helping themselves to what's inside.
One couple was the victim of a smash-and-grab theft last week after they parked near Furman University. The suspects took the woman's purse and wallet, but what was on the purse itself was a devastating loss for their family.
It was Jim Winget and his wife's first trip to the Swamp Rabbit Trail the morning of July 3.
The couple pulled into the parking lot off Duncan Chapel Road, and assumed parking the car there would be safe.
"I was hoping parking close to the trail, that it'd be safe," said Winget. "Other people were walking and I thought it should be enough of a deterrent from anything happening."
Still, they didn't take chances before hitting the trail, securely locking all of the car doors.
"My wife had taken her purse from the front seat, put it in the backseat, hid it under her clothes," said Winget.
When the pair returned from their short bike ride, the back window of their vehicle was smashed in.
"I was just in shock," said Winget. "I was shaking, calling the authorities."
The thief made off with not only his wife's credit cards and social security card, but other items that are priceless to the family.
"We just lost our son, she lost her mother, she had a lot of memorabilia, pictures of them in her purse," said Winget. "She had just found his watch in his room and had clipped it to the outside of her purse."
Furman University police weren't available for comment on how often crime occurs at the Duncan Chapel Road lot. There are three signs posted there warning people not to leave anything in the car unattended.
The Greenville City Police Department said thefts do occur in the Swamp Rabbit Trail parking lots in their jurisdiction, but they are rare.
The Greenville County Sheriff's Office has two deputies patrolling their jurisdiction of the trail, which doesn't include any car lots. The office said crime is rare on the trail itself.
"By the number of law enforcement officers that are in and around the area patrolling, I believe it is a safe place," said Sgt. Jennings Autrey with the sheriff's office.
Authorities remind the public, the best way to use the parking lots is to simply leave valuables at home. They also add it's best to use the trail during the day, walk in groups and keep a cell phone with you.
At this time there haven't been any arrests made in Jim Winget's case.
The theft happened sometime between 10:30 a.m. and noon July 3. The couple was driving a 2012 beige Kia Sorento.
They urge those with any information to call the Furman University Police Department at 864-294-2111.
Copyright FOX Carolina 2012 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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