MADISON, Wis. - Madison police are warning residents to lock their car doors, after a rash of stolen vehicle reports around the city.
This year there have been 362 cars stolen in Madison compared to 379 last year, according to the Madison Police department.
Madison police suspect a number of kids are responsible for stealing cars out of residents driveways.
"They are joy riding. They go up and pick up a couple friends and they dump them," said MPD public information officer Joel Despain.
Sunday, a group of kids ranging from 11 to 13 were seen driving a stolen car on Madison's west side. Two of the passengers were later seen going through vehicles on Juneau Road.
Officers caught an 11- and 13-year-old passengers after running on foot through the neighborhood, the 13- year-old driver got away. According to MPD, 16 cars have been stolen within the last week and are still missing, including one on Todd drive stolen Monday morning. Sinafik Mengistu, who live on Todd drive describes the area as safe.
"I usually don't lock up everything but knowing this is happening on my block, of course I'm going to probably lock my car now," Mengistu said.
It's not only Madison that has been targeted. Madison police said Fitchburg, Middleton and other parts of Dane County have seen cars go missing. Police believe there are different groups of kids ranging from 11 to 14 years old who are taking the cars. While these are young kids committing these crimes, police say this isn't a harmless joyride.
"An additional concern beyond the victimization of people that have lost their car, is that these young people could crash, injure themselves, or hurt someone else. We have concerns on a number of different fronts and again our primary message is to the victims. Lock your car door," DeSpain said.
Despain said while kids are committing a large number of the crimes, separate individuals are also responsible for car thefts in the area.
Police say a majority of the cars are being stolen from residents' driveways when they leave their car running to warm up or leave their keys in the car.
"Don’t leave your keys in it. Don’t warm up your car even if you are going to lock the car. If the car is running, it’s a temptation. These are really young criminals who are very opportunistic," DeSpain said.
Many of the cars are later recovered, but usually, the cars have been damaged or involved in accidents, according to MPD.
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