COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - It's the crown jewel of Colorado Springs and one of the most visited places in the country -- Garden of the Gods brings in millions of people a year, but what many people don't see is the dangerous transformation that happens just after dark.
Fights, car break-ins, even gunshots, all happening at the beloved park. It's come to the point where some visitors checking out the iconic spot don't want to come back.
Cars line up at parking lot nine just north of Manitou Springs, mostly teenagers blaring music, smoking marijuana and drinking. Photographer Kelsey Ryals brings her clients out to the area frequently and has seen it happen.
"We constantly see teenage kids doing drugs, smoking dope," Ryals says,"It really scares off the tourists and people who just want to come see beautiful sights."
Blake Baugh is one of those visitors seeing Garden of the Gods for the first time. He says while the sights are beautiful, it is not the family-friendly park he thought it would be.
"I wouldn't want my kids here right now," says Baugh."We were supposed to come back in the morning I don't know if we will. We may find something else."
Baugh also noticed multiple bullet holes in one of the lot's pillars.
Another frequent visitor, Tim Lynch has seen fights break out when the sun goes down.
"It's gotten really crazy," Lynch says. "Up here used to be extremely calm really peaceful, but now it's gotten very wild and ignorant."
KRDO spoke to one of the teenagers blasting music from his car. He says they get that complaint a lot, saying, "I wouldn't really say crime, just rowdiness. I don't consider being loud a crime"
That may be true, but the littering, racing, car break-ins, and underage drug use are and it doesn't stop there. One viewer e-mailing us saying a loved one was beaten at gunpoint at that very same parking lot.
The Colorado Springs Police Department released crime statistics from the area. Since January, there have been 74 criminal offenses, which is a decrease from last year. However, 36 of those offenses came in June -- multiple assaults, DUIs, and even a death investigation. The common crime police see are car break-ins.
Lt. Howard Black with CSPD says they know of the crime and are working to keep visitors and locals safe by adding extra patrols to make their presence known. However, Lt. Black says with nearly six million people visiting in 2017, the amount of crime happening in the area is incredibly low.
Officials with Garden of the Gods say they are also aware of the problem. They are working to add more fences to areas preventing people from entering at all time during the night.
Visitors are hoping more can be done to keep Garden of the Gods safe.