Thieves target women at Knoxville parks, burglarize parked cars

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)-- Connie French, a Knoxville native, has been running on Cherokee Boulevard in Sequoyah Hills many times before. She always put her purse out of sight and locked the doors; a routine for 18 years.

But last November, she came back from a run and found something far from routine. Her back car window was busted open and her purse and phone were snatched.

"I get sick to my stomach because I'm afraid all of it is going to happen all over again," she said.

Car repairs set her back $2,000, but she said the most valuable thing stolen was her sense of security. "My confidence in just being able to come to a beautiful neighborhood and run," French told WVLT's Robert Grant.

Knoxville Police said outdoor enthusiasts can be easy targets for thieves who prowl surrounding parking lots looking for purses left behind. French believes someone waited for her to take off for her run before breaking in just minutes later.

The Knoxville Community Crime map shows crime across the area. Knoxville has seen 749 car burglaries so far this year, which KPD said was actually down about 5%.

"It just makes you mad. You're doing something for your health, you're doing something for stress reduction," Missy Kane, a fitness expert, said.

She recommended locking your belongings away in a glove compartment, parking next to the street where there's traffic, locking your doors, and bringing your keys with you.

Kane also said if you're in a state or national park, you can tell the ranger you're leaving and they will sometimes keep an eye out while you're gone.