MILWAUKEE COUNTY — Twenty-one high-end super charge vehicles have been stolen from Mitchell International Airport since April 2021.
Milwaukee County Sheriff Earnell Lucas said similar car thefts have been happening in states across the Midwest and South and now federal agencies are involved in the investigation, along with state and local agencies.
"We believe that there are individuals that are coordinating. It's highly well coordinated. They're being very specific in how they're targeting specific high end vehicles," Sheriff Lucas said about those stealing the cars.
Some of the cars being targeted are Ram pickup trucks, Dodge Hellcats, and Jeep Grand Cherokees.
"These cars can be sold out on eBay and other sites. You get a high dollar for them," Sheriff Lucas said.
Court documents show the thieves are using technology to steal the cars, then re-titling and applying fake VINs before reselling them. The sheriff said it only takes a few minutes for the cars to be stolen. However, they're not as easy to steal as Kias and Hyundais have proven to be.
"This is sophisticated theft. It takes a bit more than with the Kias and Hyundais. Individuals are using very elaborate measures to steal these cars," the sheriff said.
Sheriff Lucas said his department has been enhancing patrols of the parking areas at the airport and continuing to coordinate with the airport and its parking group.
Of the cars stolen from the Mitchell Airport parking structure, 13 have been recovered. The cars have been recovered as close as Milwaukee and Kenosha to as far away as North Carolina and Florida.
Gregg Kunes spoke to TMJ4 back in May about his truck that was stolen from the airport. His car has yet to be recovered. We spoke to him again Thursday after speaking to the sheriff.
"It's frustrating," Kunes said about the experience of his car being stolen.
He said he's now changed how he gets to and from the airport.
"I have someone drop me off. I have a driver drop me off or I take a very nondescript car that nobody wants," Kunes said.
Unfortunately, Sheriff Lucas said there's not much Kunes or other victims could have done to prevent the theft.
"It's a crime of opportunity. The vehicle is parked, it's stationary. There's nothing that the operator of the vehicle or the owner is doing wrong simply by parking their car at the airport," Sheriff Lucas said. "Certainly there's anti-theft devices that people can use on their vehicles, but in the cases we've seen, individuals that were motivated to take and steal the cars, they would go to great lengths to get away with the car because of it's value."
The sheriff said several arrests have been made, including by his department in March. In May, Casha Griffin was arrested in Kenosha County in connection to the thefts at the airport.
Sheriff Lucas stresses that even though the new trend of stolen cars is concerning, car thefts from the airport parking structure are still a rare occurrence.