Two weeks ago, on a Friday night when a dozen vehicles were entered, a Whitefish Bay police officer responded to a resident's call about a suspicious man on Woodruff Avenue.
After arriving in the area, the police officer saw a man walk up several driveways in the 4800 block of Elkhart Avenue to look into vehicles. In one driveway, the man seemed to find something that caught his interest, so he opened the driver's door, got in the vehicle and started rummaging through the center console.
The officer then arrested the man at gunpoint at 11:46 p.m. on Nov. 9.
The 20-year-old Milwaukee man told the officer he was looking for change because he was homeless and hungry. Before he was arrested, he told officers that he looked into about 20 cars, but this was the first one he got into because it was the first car he saw money in.
He was arrested on a warrant through the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office for larceny. He was cited for theft and loitering. He was also cited for receiving stolen property because he admitted to paying $15 for a stolen Blackberry phone that was in his pocket.
Is the crime spree over?
After 42 illegal vehicle entries in the last five weeks, a series of arrests seem to have brought down the crime numbers. Three separate arrests in Whitefish Bay and Franklin have been connected to Whitefish Bay thefts.
Whitefish Bay Police Chief Michael Young said he believes the recent theft problem has been stymied – although he makes no guarantees that they are gone for good.
"I think we have pretty well identified who's been responsible for these thefts," Young said. "Our theft numbers have gone down. Our burglaries have gone down. We have been sharing information with Shorewood, and we think we know who has been behind these crimes."
Most recent thefts
- On Thursday, Franklin police arrested two Milwaukee men, ages 19 and 20, who allegedly stole a 1996 Chrysler Sebring convertible from a Whitefish Bay driveway between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Nov. 21. The vehicle was stolen without keys in the 700 block of Chateau Place and was recovered in Franklin with a peeled column at 1:35 a.m. Thursday. The two men have not admitted to the theft, but are facing charges in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.
- Franklin police also found another one of Whitefish Bay's car thieves last week. Property that was stolen from a vehicle in the 5800 block of Maitland Court was recovered during a vehicle search in Franklin. The homeowner told police that an unknown person entered his garage through an open overhead door, and then stole a GPS, I-Pass and change from two unlocked vehicles in the garage. The homeowner believes the theft happened sometime between 8 p.m. Nov. 18 and 4:16 a.m. Nov. 19. The two men in possession of the stolen property have been taken into custody by the Franklin Police Department.
- Another vehicle theft victim was not so lucky. A Sendik's employee returned to her car the night of Nov. 14 to find the front window of her car had been smashed and her laptop and backpack had been stolen. The vehicle owner believes the break-in occurred between 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.
How can residents help?
There are things that Whitefish Bay residents can do to make sure another crime wave doesn't descend upon the streets of Whitefish Bay.
Young stressed it is important to be aware of your surroundings – which means not only protecting your own valuables but also keeping an eye out for suspicious activity in the neighborhood.
Lock your doors
Young said theives are more likely to hit cars that have unlocked doors and valuables in plain view.
"They go up and down the block looking for valuables and open car doors," Young said. "If it's locked, they move on to the next guy's car."
If you see something, say something
As seen with the Elkhart Avenue arrest on Nov. 9, one resident's call to the police was able to catch a thief who may have been responsible for another dozen thefts on the same night.
Although Whitefish Bay police are patroling the streets every night, Young said it also helps to have neighbors keeping an eye out for suspicious activity.
"The phrase 'community policing' is popular right now, but who knows their neighborhood better than the citizens that live here," Young said. "They know their neighborhood like nobody else, and they know when something's not right. If you think something doesn't look right, it's better to call us as soon as possible because it gives us a chance to catch a crime in progress."