Madison police concerned with rise in vehicle thefts, crashes involving teen suspects

MADISON, Wis. — After the second vehicle theft and crash in six days involving teens happened in Madison on Monday, a captain with the city’s police department said the young suspects need to be held more accountable for their reckless behavior. 

“The fear that we all have, whether you’re in law enforcement or just the community, is one of these times we’re not going to be so lucky and someone innocent is going to get struck,” Capt. Mike Hanson said.

The latest incident saw a stolen Kia SUV end up wrecked on the city’s south side around 8 p.m. Monday. An off-duty police officer saw the vehicle driving recklessly on Seven Nations Drive near Rimrock Road.

RELATED: MPD: Four juveniles arrested after stealing Kia SUV, crashing into parked van

Hanson said it’s not just the speeds — more than 50 miles per hour on city streets — but a different number that concerns him even more.  

“For vehicle crimes where they’re stealing and leading us on high-speed chases, it does appear anecdotally that the youth are getting more young, 15 and 14 years old driving these cars so recklessly,” he said.

A few minutes later, that vehicle hit an unoccupied van and rolled over. The four people inside, ranging from 12 to 14 years old, ran away from the crash but were found a little later near Moorland Road. No one was injured.  

Last week, five teenagers crashed a stolen car and ran into the Marcus Point Theater on the west side. Police locked down the cinema for several hours and safely arrested those suspects. 

RELATED: Loaded gun found in stolen car that crashed near west side movie theater; 5 teens arrested

“That teamwork allowed for a safe resolution, an excellent resolution to a situation that was rather dangerous and pretty chaotic, given the nature of the business and the time of day,” Assistant Police Chief Brian Austin at a press conference the day after.  

It appears the issues are popping up all around town, including on East Washington Avenue near Hayes Road.

MPD reports newer Kias and Hyundais were stolen several times in the last two weeks from hotels, driveways, and apartment parking lots. 

RELATED: Madison police seeing increase in car thefts, Kias and Hyundais targeted

While no one has stolen resident Yyashaumn Maney’s car, they did take items from inside.  

“And if you’re leaving your pod for your ignition switch inside the car, generally what they do is they just come by and hit the handle and it’s like the lottery, they win,” he said. 

Hanson said it’s challenging for law enforcement with suspects so young. 

“No one’s saying lock the 14-year-old up and throw away the key by any means; however, there are probably other measures between jobs, schooling, neighborhood centers and other things to get more outreach to these youth that are committing the crime,” he said.

According to police, the Kias can be started without a key by tampering with the steering column. 

Officials plan to hold a press conference later in the week going over the targeted vehicles and what drivers might be able to do. In the meantime, a steering wheel lock can be one safeguard drivers can consider.