MADISON, Wis. -

About 35 neighbors on Madison's West Side asked police for advice Tuesday on making their homes safe after recent break-ins.

Neighbors said a thief targeted at least a half-dozen homes in the Wexford Village neighborhood, near Old Sauk and Gammon roads, in recent months.

Police said "crimes of opportunity," including break-ins and thefts of homes with open doors or windows, increase along with the temperature outside.

"A lot of folks only know about 50 yards left and right of their front porch," said Madison Police Lt. John Patterson. "This is a really good time to get to know one another and learn the patterns of your neighbors, so you make better decisions on whether what you're seeing is something that should be reported."

Patterson and a Madison patrol officer told Wexford neighbors to trim hedges to give burglars fewer places to hide, close garage doors and leave lights on timers.

Art Taggart was one of the neighbors who had a thief break into his house -- on Christmas morning.

The family was in Appleton when someone got in through the garage, then stole a television and a camera.

"We had to come back and straighten up the house," he said. "And then you're always a little reluctant to leave on trips."

"I think there's a lot of anxiety (among neighbors) that wasn't there before, and I think people are upset by that," Taggart said.

Dick Ihlenfeld, the neighborhood association's president, said the break-ins have stopped, but there have also been ongoing concerns about smashed car windows and mailboxes.

Police haven't caught anyone and aren't sure how many people are responsible.

Taggart said he's reinforced his doors with steel, but the thief shortened the last visit he got with his mother, who died in January.

"The biggest thing that was stolen from me was extra time with my mom," he said.