When riders got off the Metro Transit bus at the Cottage Grove Park and Ride lot last month, they saw debris from more than two dozen cars.
"Most of it was just vandalism," said Cottage Grove Police Chief Craig Woolery.
Cottage Grove police say there was some theft, but with most cars, vandals simply broke the windows. That left drivers leary of leaving all day, knowing in a remote spot, thieves could strike again.
"It's when they come in big piles like this that leaves the riders feeling typically vulnerable," Woolery said.
More riders than ever before. Rising gas prices and congestion have driven a 5% hike in express bus ridership, and as those numbers have risen, so has vandalism. Thieves are stealing visible valuables, but also things like catalytic converters, and they're doing it in lots from Cottage Grove to Maple Grove.
"I don't think criminals are targeting these lots," said Bob Gibbons, Metro Transit spokesperson.
Metro Transit says its lots are safe. With 150 Park and Ride locations, it has security staff watching, and cameras. Cottage Grove will be the next spot to get one, a proven deterrent in other lots.
"Criminals who have a brain would go somewhere else, because they know their activities would be captured on tape," Gibbons said.
Metro Transit is counting on it, determined to stop crime, and help protect its lots and the riders who use them.
"Anytime someone's car is broken into it makes them less confident in the transit service and less likely to take it," Gibbons said.
Cottage Grove police say there are no suspects yet, but they're offering a $500 reward to anyone with information in the case. Their tip line is (651)458-2801.
They're also holding a meeting tonight to update riders on the investigation, and on what they're doing to keep the lot safe.
(Copyright 2008 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)