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Madison Police Dept. notices uptick in violent auto thefts

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – Madison police are warning the public of a disturbing trend, an uptick in violent auto thefts.

Police reported more than 100 auto thefts within the first six weeks of 2021. Although many of those reported cases involved keys left inside the vehicle, officers are trying to curb the violence that seems to be following some of these crimes.

“It’s a troubling trend and we’re seeing more instances where violence is involved,” Assist. Chief Vic Wahl of the Madison Police Dept. said. “Not just stealing an unoccupied car, that’s stealing a car that has someone in it and there’s some force used to take it, it’s a continuing trend.”

In February, Madison Police Chief Dr. Shon Barnes posted two YouTube videos warning Madison residents of an increase in these kinds of crimes.

“These auto thefts are tied to a recent strain of strong-armed robberies, high speed chases and stolen cars,” Chief Barnes said in the video. “This criminal behavior is unacceptable.”

Over the weekend of Feb. 27 and Feb. 28, two major instances of violent car theft. A man ran over a pregnant woman’s leg when she tried to stop him from stealing her car at a gas station. She is expected to recover, but officers are still searching for the suspect. A stolen car was also involved in a crash on the Beltline near Rimrock Road.

Wahl also calls this behavior ‘frustrating,’ and says police are doing what they can to continue to make arrests and recover stolen cars.

“We’re also looking at other long-term options and do everything we can to respond to this as effectively and efficiently as possible,” Wahl said.

As of mid-February, Chief Barnes said teenagers represent about 50% of car theft arrests.

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