MADISON, Wis. - On a day when many families living on the west side of Madison leave their homes to see the Elver Park fireworks, police said there will be plenty of police presence at the event and around the neighborhoods.
That said, police at the west district have been seeing an increased number of home burglaries compared to this time last year, and they are putting resources toward stopping those crimes.
Madison Alder Matt Phair was putting his daughter to bed in his house on Tanager Trail a couple of weeks ago when he heard an unwelcome noise.
"I heard the screen door open and knew that something wasn't right, and came out of my daughter's room and saw somebody entering the house and I yelled, and he took off," Phair said.
Phair quickly realized he was one of many people targeted in the west side neighborhoods surrounding Raymond Road.
"This has been happening unfortunately to homes around the area for a while," Phair said.
Phair said for the last four or five months he's been hearing from constituents and police about a surge in home burglaries. From what he has heard from authorities residential robberies are up 30 percent from this time last year.
"We traditionally see an uptick in burglaries with warmer weather," Madison Police Capt. Victor Wahl said. "People are more active, leaving their windows open, leaving their garage doors open, that's not unusual. The big difference from last year to this year has been sort of the geographic concentration in this area."
Wahl said burglars are not easy to track down and take into custody, especially in a situation like this one where they aren't using the same method of entry or striking at the same time of day.
"There hasn't been a real consistent pattern," Wahl said. "There have been a number of different things that we've seen, so it's been a challenge to pin down what's causing the increase."
As they search for the people or group responsible for the spike in break-ins and burglaries, Wahl urges neighbors to keep doors, windows and garages closed and locked up. He also said keeping the exterior of a home well-lit and out of the cover of trees or bushes could help turn trouble away.
"They're often crimes of opportunity, and we've seen it before in the district where out of nowhere, we'll see a big spike," Wahl said, "Then eventually after we make arrests or identify who it is, it was just one group, one person that is responsible for that spike."
Wahl said officers are putting extra effort into prevention, going around to neighbors living close to residences that have already been attacked, making contact with them, and informing them about the risk of someone trying to rob their own home.
In addition, Phair said the site and app NextDoor has helped his community look out for one another. Through that medium, he said neighbors are able to tell others when they are targeted by a criminal and when they might be out of town.
"Instead of being scared, we have to figure out how to take care of some of these problems and issues and take our neighborhood back, so to speak," Phair said.
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