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Madison-area car theft numbers remain higher than usual

Published: Nov. 30, 2020 at 10:18 PM CST
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DANE COUNTY, Wis. (WMTV) - Car thefts in the Madison area are more common than they used to be.

Madison resident Glenna knows that from firsthand experience, her car was stolen in September.

“I walked out to the street and looked both directions to see if I saw my car and it hit me that I had been robbed,” Glenna said. (NBC15 News Investigates chose to conceal Glenna’s last name to not revictimize her).

Glenna said she locked her doors before going to bed, but in the morning, she found out a thief had somehow broken in through her garage attached to the kitchen while she slept.

“So needless to say, I was devastated,” Glenna said.

During the burglary, the thief stole two computers, an iPad, Glenna’s purse and wallet and her car keys.

Glenna called the Madison Police Dept. (MPD) and filed a report.

“Monday, a policeman from Fitchburg called and asked my name and he said, ‘we found your car, could you come get it.?’” Glenna said.

Glenna got her car back. It wasn’t damaged, but she would get a huge shock the next day. Glenna went to the Madison Bridge Club. She owns the place and stopped by to do some maintenance.

However, Glenna ended up calling 911 again.

“I’m sitting at the desk playing bridge, when this huge SUV drove into the parking lot,” Glenna said. “All of a sudden, they stop, and a young man gets out of the passenger side of the car and starts running to my car. My fob for the car was in my purse, so that’s why even though I had locked it from inside the bridge club, he could unlock it and drive off.”

“Most of these crimes are committed by juveniles who are anywhere from 12-years-old up to 17 and 18-years-old,” Lt. Edward Hartwick of the Fitchburg Police Dept. (FPD) said.

Hartwick investigates these types of crimes.

“We’re experiencing many of the same issues as the rest of the county is experiencing,” Hartwick said.

From 2016 -2017, FPD saw a jump in car thefts from 24 to 67.

From 2016-2017, Fitchburg's auto theft numbers jumped from 24 to 67
From 2016-2017, Fitchburg's auto theft numbers jumped from 24 to 67(Fitchburg Police Dept.)

Madison and Middleton have also seen an increase. Those numbers have stayed higher than usual over the last few years. Most of them involved the same group of teens.

“It really is hard to put a number on it because the group grows every day and just when we think we’ve identified people that are a part of one group, then the next group comes along and starts engaging in this type of activity,” Hartwick said.

Police investigation shows these groups of teens are connected on social media; many of them brag about what they’ve done.

“From their perspective, this is a game,” Hartwick said. “The frightening thing is, looking at it from a young person’s perspective; consequences are often never real until they’re in the middle of it. We’re always afraid that something’s going to happen, whether it’s a car crash or a confrontation with a homeowner.”

Glenna wants to spread the word, that it doesn’t matter where you live, crime can happen anywhere, to anyone.

“None of us are safe anymore,” Glenna said. “We have felt safe in this neighborhood forever and never thought about locking our doors until about 5 years ago. I just want everyone to be more aware.”

NBC15 News Investigates asked Lt. Hartwick if there’s a way to stop these groups of teenagers from committing crimes.

He said more than one thing must change; it must be a team effort of the community, law enforcement and the justice system.

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