Car thefts spiking across Milwaukee

NOW: Car thefts spiking across Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Cold weather is making it easier for car thieves to strike.

Car thefts across the city of Milwaukee are already skyrocketing.

Nearly 800 were stolen last month, compared to 300 a year ago.

Some people are making it easier to get ripped off.

It's tempting with weather like this to warm up your car in the driveway or keep it running in the parking lot while on a quick errand, but police say that's a shortcut to getting left out in the cold.

"We have found some cars as far away as Chicago," said Milwaukee Police Captain David Feldmeier.

He said the number of cars stolen by kids, some as young as 12, started climbing rapidly at the end of 2020. Nearly 66 percent of the thefts are Kias and Hyundais.

"We believe there's something in the alarm system that isn't triggered when they break into the cars," said Feldmeier.

Police said the kids take cars left running just for a moment, or parked on a dark street for reckless joyrides.

"We're seeing a lot of reckless driving, racing, they're swerving at other vehicles, they're swerving at our squad cars," said Feldmeier.

Those cars get wrecked, dumped, and end up at body shops like Studer Body and Paint.

"The parts for the cars, there's such a big rush of them, that all the parts are on back order," said Owner Bob Studer.

He said fixing the car thieves' mess of busted glass, trashed steering columns, and worse, costs customers and their insurance big bucks.

"$2,000 to $3,000 to over $10,000," said Studer.

Police also worry these thieves with little driving experience, operating a thousand pound projectile, will end up killing someone.

"When you're young, don't have any experience, that can be a very dangerous combination," said Feldmeier.

Besides keeping your car locked and shut off when you're not in it, police said a steering wheel lock from any auto parts store helps deter thieves.

Installed properly, it prevents them from trying to steal your car because it is just not worth the extra effort.

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