MILWAUKEE — Nearly halfway through 2021, Milwaukee and nearby suburbs reported data that show cars are being stolen at a faster rate than in recent years.
Danielle Bach said a video from a neighbor's surveillance camera shows thieves driving away in her 2013 white Kia Rio near 14th and Cleveland in Milwaukee just before 3 a.m. on Tuesday.
She found out it was missing hours later when she was heading into work.
"It was just crazy. I have kids. I'm a social worker. I was actually going to go to the gas station and do a home visit after, and I couldn't even do that," Bach said.
The single mom said not having her car is impacting more than her job.
"My daughter's graduation is Friday and they're doing a drive-thru celebratory. I'm kind of disappointed that we're not even going to be able to do her graduation," Bach said.
Bach filed a police report and has tried to stay optimistic that her car will be found.
Milwaukee police data showed so far in 2021, there have been 3,852 motor vehicle thefts, way up from the roughly 1,350 in the same time frame in 2020.
In Wauwatosa, police said 83 cars have been stolen so far this year, versus 23 in the same time frame last year. Police there added that from 2018-2020, the three-year average for stolen vehicle calls was 106 in a year. So far, Wauwatosa police have received 116 calls in the last five months.
Over in Glendale, the number of stolen cars in 2021 is on pace with 2020. Since the beginning of 2021, Glendale police have had 34 motor vehicle thefts. In all of 2020, there were 69. In 2019, Glendale had 41 car thefts and 81 in 2018.
Finally in Brown Deer, police said it appears the 31 car thefts and attempted car thefts so far this year will double the number from 2020, when they had 37. BDPD reported there were 26 in 2019 and 65 in 2018.
"What we see usually is a group of three or four suspects. They ride together in one car. A lot of times that car is actually stolen," said community outreach officer Fernando Santiago with Brown Deer police.
Officer Santiago said criminals are not just sticking to unlocked cars anymore. Police have seen thieves target cars in apartment parking lots and breaking car windows to get inside. They take out the ignition and can get the car going in less than 1 minute.
"Mainly joy riding. We usually recover the cars fairly quickly, and more often than not, they're damaged. They've been through some kind of wreck so we're assuming speed is a factor, they were just driving recklessly around the city and then they just got another one, once the car they have is either wrecked or runs out of gas," Officer Santiago said.
Santiago said they recovered 23 out of the 24 cars that were stolen so far this year, and similar to Milwaukee, Brown Deer has seen crooks target Kias and Hyundais.
Officer Santiago strongly encouraged drivers to lock their doors, take valuables out at night, keep outdoor lights on and use anti-theft devices like a club to put on your steering wheel to deter crooks.