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Man wants to help hiking community feel safer

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    OMAHA, Nebraska (WOWT) — A sunny January afternoon took a dark turn this week at one of Omaha’s city parks.

According to a police report, Wednesday afternoon around 4:45, a woman from Chicago was at Standing Bear Lake, sitting in her car in the parking lot off 144th St. She told police two men approached her car. One came to the driver’s side window while the other broke the window on the passenger side, stole her purse, and ran off.

It was troubling news to many in the Omaha hiking community.

Word about the robbery spread fast on the Hike Omaha Facebook page, and it prompted Jared Lashley to brainstorm ways to help people feel safer out on the trails.

An avid hiker himself, Lashley says crime has no place in city parks where people hike, jog, ride bikes, and walk their dogs.

“I couldn’t believe that it could happen here,” he said.

Lashley believes everyone has a right to feel and be safe, and after this week’s robbery, he’s offering help in any way that he can.

“I was trying to think of a way that people could feel more safe,” he said. “I’m a daily hiker, and I thought about sharing my location, my phone number, so people could hike there if they wanted to and even give them more reassurance that somebody else from the group was there. They don’t necessarily have to tell me they’re there, just that they knew that I was.”

Lashley said the robbery Wednesday won’t deter him from hiking. However, he may rethink hiking alone in the early morning and evening hours.

He did say he’s concerned about a possible crime trend at Standing Bear Lake.

“I didn’t realize until I read this post that there’s been quite a bit of crime here, and recently,” he said.

Not all crimes are reported to police, but the Crime Mapping website shows that in the past 4 weeks, police have been called to Standing Bear Lake 6 times. The reports are for car break-ins, vandalism, and Wednesday’s robbery.

The data goes as far back as July. That timeframe showed many more calls to Omaha police. Again, mostly for car break-ins and theft. This week’s incident remains the only reported robbery.

As for Jared Lashley, his hope is for others in the hiking community to follow his lead and help build a stronger sense of security for those who enjoy the outdoors.

”Everybody should feel safe, there’s no reason that they shouldn’t, this is a city park,” said Lashley.

He also offered advice for walkers, hikers, and anyone else on the trails – carry a whistle, turn the “location” on in your phone and take pictures and videos so people know where you are, and always report suspicious activity.

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