Official warns of surge in car break-ins at Devil’s Lake

Superintendent believes repeat offender could be behind incidents
Official warns of surge in car break-ins at Devil’s Lake

A string of car break-ins at Devil’s Lake State Park has the superintendent suspecting a repeat offender.

Park Superintendent Steve Schmelzer said about 20 cars broken into had items stolen over the course of the summer.

Someone broke into the vehicles by smashing windows. Most of the stolen property was purses and wallets, and victims told Schmelzer that whoever took those items was using credit cards and debit cards for purchases.

Schmelzer said purses discovered at Devil’s Lake were linked to similar robberies at Mazo Beach and near Lake Delton.

“We put out signs in all of our outlying areas and also coming into the park, warning people that they should lock up their valuables and not leave their purse or laptop right inside their window so somebody could see that,” Schmelzer said.

According to Schmelzer, surveillance video from the Bank of Wisconsin Dells shows a person using a stolen card. When he brought that and any other evidence to the district attorney, he was told the pictures were not sufficient and there is not enough evidence to bring charges against anyone at this time.

“We think there might be a connection, but at this point, we can’t say for certain,” Schmelzer said.

This is not the first time Devil’s Lake has dealt with a situation like this. In the summer of 2010, vehicles in parking lots were targeted with mostly electronics such as GPS units being stolen.

“There’s serial numbers on most of the electronic devices, so you can track those whether somebody has that information,” Schmelzer said. “We can put that into the database and see. But a purse or a wallet, there is really no tracking that can be done with that.”

Schmelzer would not reveal the name of the suspect arrested in the 2010 break-ins and thefts but said the man was caught selling the electronics that he stole from cars parked at Devil’s Lake.

Official warns of surge in car break-ins at Devil’s Lake

Schmelzer said that man will be sentenced this week for those charges, but he believes the man is responsible for the most recent incidents as well.

Schmelzer said the break-ins stopped in September, around the same time he was notified that the suspect was in jail for violating probation.

“At this point, we just don’t have enough evidence to charge anybody,” Schmelzer said.