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Wauwatosa police link car thefts to those in Milwaukee County

July 23, 2014

Wauwatosa has been hit hard this summer with carjackings, car break-ins and robberies, many of which are being linked to similar incidents happening in Milwaukee, West Allis, Greenfield and other suburbs, according to a spokesperson for the Wauwatosa Police Department.

Wauwatosa police have made a number of arrests related to these crimes, but six individuals — a mix of adults and juveniles — have been arrested previously in nearby jurisdictions, and are suspected for overlapping offenses, said Lt. Chris Fox of Wauwatosa police.

Here are two police reports related to such incidents:

· On Thursday, June 26, police recovered a 2011 Honda Pilot that was stolen from a man who was held up by an unidentified male with a semi-automatic rifle on West North Avenue and North 80th Street. The suspect had fled in the vehicle and was involved in a high-speed chase with police before stopping and attempting to flee on foot. He and some passengers were detained.

· On Tuesday, July 8, at 2:21 a.m., a stolen 1993 white Honda Accord was used to smash into the front entrance of Walgreens, 2656 Wauwatosa Ave., where seven males proceeded to steal $1,797 worth of cigarettes and candy. Two other vehicles were also involved in the burglary, which authorities affirmed was almost identical to another "smash and grab" break in at a Walgreens on North 90th Street and West Good Hope Road on June 30. Additionally, one of the three vehicles involved in the Wauwatosa burglary was used later that night in "smash and grab" incident at Gold Star, 6530 N. 76th St., Milwaukee.

"We believe that there is a definite link between some of the people doing it here in Wauwatosa and those in Milwaukee," said Fox, who spoke on behalf of the Detective's Bureau officers assigned to these cases. "It is something we are continuing to work on. The problem has not been alleviated yet. But we are working alongside (other agencies) to nail as many people as we can get."

The Milwaukee Police Department suspects some of these crimes are the work of teenagers. A 17-year-old was charged with attempted robbery in early July and a 15-year-old, who was involved with two incidents, was shot by a woman he was trying to carjack, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported July 12.

Fox could not definitively say when Wauwatosa police began investigating the ring of car thefts. "It is hard to peg when it all began. It's not until you start to see a pattern of them that you start to look back," he added.

The police have been working closely with other agencies to exchange information.

"It has happened once or twice to everyone and anyone around right now; that's why it's gotten the attention of all these different agencies to work together to bring an end to it or make it really, really uncomfortable for (the suspects)," said Fox.

In the same vein, Wauwatosa police have been directing their night staff to areas that have been prone to car break-ins. The number of thefts from cars is not any more frequent than it normally is, said Fox, but "when you get someone who is working a spot, they tend to do several in the same area."

Car break-in thieves seek out unlocked cars that have visible valuable items inside. But such incidents "are seldom, in my experience, related to stealing the car," said Fox.

Fox added that keeping valuables out of sight, and using motion lights or parking in well-lit areas, helps deter such thieves. Even with frequent patrolling, police lean on the community for help in detecting suspicious activity.

"The people who live on the street are the people who are most used to what is normal on their street," said Fox. "If they keep their eyes and ears open and something doesn't seem right, give us a call."

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