By George P. Thomas
While the forest is generally considered to be a safe and welcoming environment, visitors should always take precautions and be aware of their surroundings to avoid becoming a victim of crime.
The Ocala National Forest is usually safe, but over the years there have been reports of various types of criminal activity within the forest, ranging from theft and vandalism to more serious crimes such as assault and murder.
One of the most common types of crime reported in the Ocala National Forest is theft. Campers and hikers are sometimes targeted by thieves who steal their belongings, such as tents, coolers, and other camping gear.
Vehicles parked at trailheads or other popular destinations within the forest are also at risk of theft, with reports of break-ins and thefts of personal items or valuables left in the car.
Another common crime reported in the forest is vandalism. Graffiti, littering, and destruction of natural features are all examples of vandalism that have been reported in the forest.
These types of crimes not only damage the natural beauty of the forest but also pose a safety risk to visitors. More serious crimes, such as assault and murder, have also occurred in the Ocala National Forest.
In 2016, two hikers were killed in the forest in an apparently random act of violence, sparking concern and raising questions about safety in the forest.
While these types of crimes are rare, they serve as a reminder that visitors to the forest should always be vigilant and take precautions to ensure their safety.
To help prevent crime and keep visitors safe, the United States Forest Service, which manages the Ocala National Forest, works closely with law enforcement agencies to patrol the forest and investigate reports of criminal activity.
Visitors are encouraged to report any suspicious behavior or criminal activity they witness to law enforcement or forest rangers.
In conclusion, while the Ocala National Forest is generally a safe and welcoming environment, visitors should always be aware of the potential for crime and take precautions to protect themselves and their belongings.
By being vigilant and working together with law enforcement and forest officials, we can help ensure that the forest remains a safe and enjoyable destination for generations to come.