Holiday visitors seeking a quiet day off beside the water at Folsom State Recreation Area on July 5 instead had front-row seats to a pursuit, as park rangers chased an assault suspect on foot through throngs of picnickers.
It was like a scene from a big-city television crime drama. But this was a state park.
Crime is on the rise in California's state parks, up nearly threefold in the last decade, according to Department of Parks and Recreation data analyzed by McClatchy Newspapers.
Last year, 62,575 crimes were reported in the parks -- or about 170 a day, compared with 65 a day in 1999 -- even as crime in the rest of the state declined. Taking park use into account, crime last year reached record per-capita levels.
"It makes us feel vulnerable," said Floyd Oydegaard, owner of Columbia Booksellers, a business inside the Gold Rush-era Columbia State Historic Park near Sonora, which was hit hard last year by thieves and vandals. "It doesn't belong here."
Across the 278 state parks, crime is more common near water and in the eight off-road vehicle recreation parks. Both tend to draw large crowds and inherently risky activities.
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