MPD arrest many teenage thieves as car thefts go down

MPD arrest many teenage thieves as car thefts go down
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The Madison Police Department says their social media campaign is paying off. Police report car thefts fell 53 percent from January to February 2018.

“We’ve been trying to get the message out the old fashioned way for quite some time, so we’re really trying to get better at using Twitter and other social media to get messages out in a clever way,” said Joel Despain, Madison Police Department’s public information officer. “So we’ve almost been giving the same message. It’s just the way we’ve presented it that has changed.”

During the record-breaking cold snap in January, Madison experienced nearly two cars stolen each day.

Almost all of those thefts were unlocked cars that were left running in residential neighborhoods.

The Madison Police Department says 27 cars were stolen in February, many from those same neighborhoods, and those cars were often also left running.

Officers are frustrated they still see the same problem even though it’s on a smaller scale.

Of the 27 cars stolen last month, 24 were unlocked, with the keys in them. Fourteen were left unlocked and running.

Police say kids as young as 12 were taking these cars. They now have a number of those suspects at the Juvenile Correction Center.

In January, police told News 3 they knew who many of the teenagers were, and it was just a matter of time before they arrested them. Now, with many of them locked up, officers say their diligence is paying off.

“The reason we’re able to identify these people is that it’s the same people stealing cars time and time and time again,” said Despain. “And really, there wasn’t anything taking place within the system that was acting as a great deterrent for them.”

Madison police also worry about the safety threat stolen cars pose to the community. When they’re taken out on joyrides, that is dangerous for other drivers.

Officers also believe weather plays a factor. While cars are stolen all year long, there are spikes in the winter, when more people leave their cars unlocked and running.

The number of car thefts nationwide has been on the rise since 2015. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, expensive car parts are to blame. A handful of easy-to-remove car parts can quickly add up to more than $10,000 when resold.