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Victims react to declining car theft numbers in Milwaukee: 'I can't see how'

The Milwaukee Police Department said there were 10,486 car thefts in 2021 compared to 8,090 in 2022.
Car Theft
Posted at 4:44 PM, Jan 16, 2023

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) says there were 23% fewer car thefts in 2022 compared to 2021.

The police chief says that should inspire "hope" as the community comes together to try and end the stolen car epidemic.

However, some victims of car theft say despite the declining numbers, it's hard to have hope when numbers are still as high as they are.

"I can't see how it's slowing down," said Carol McFarlane. She had her Kia Soul stolen from Potawatomi Hotel and Casino last spring and was devastated.

But numbers from Milwaukee police say things are getting better. MPD said there were 10,486 car thefts in 2021 compared to 8,090 in 2022.

Still, the numbers are higher than what they were in 2020 when there were 4,507 car thefts in the city.

"I get challenged when people say, well let me say you're not at pre-pandemic numbers," said Police Chief Jeff Norman. "There is hope, the relationships that we're building, whether it's the Office of Violence Prevention, whether its elected officials; let's start with the mayor's office, whether it's our community-based organizations, whether it's within the business community, I am assured that we are in the right space in regards of being able to work together to understand that this is a collective issue to be able to address it and move forward."

However, victims of car theft say it can be hard to have hope.

"Go on Facebook, stolen cars MKE, you're going to see like every hour it's posted, a new car is stolen, a new car is stolen," said McFarlane.

Wendy Sneed, who was visiting Milwaukee from Chicago, had her car stolen outside of the Hilton Hotel in downtown Milwaukee last month.

"I had the (key) fob in my hand and I was going to unlock it and there was a man sitting in the driver's seat and another man climbing through the shattered window on the passenger side and my car just took off," said Sneed.

She said police found her car in less than 6 hours but when she got it back, the car was totaled.

Since then, she has been able to buy a new vehicle but still, she said the entire situation was traumatizing.

"It makes me think twice about, 'jeez do I really want to go meet my friends downtown or should I just stay home where it's safe,'" she said.

Those feelings are the deeper reality of car theft for victims.

"It just never leaves you," said Mcfarlane.

She said in order to feel hopeful amid the declining numbers from police, she needs to see the thieves held accountable more often.

"You lose out on money here, you lose out on money there. Your personal items are gone. It's just all that little stuff that adds up. It's like, 'you know who is stealing the cars,' you know? To put them in jail, that's not going to do anything," said Mcfarlane. "Put them in boot camp. Put them somewhere so they have to somehow earn some kind of money to pay back the person's car that they've stolen."

Two victims' perspectives that show even positive trends can't fully outweigh the severity of a still lingering issue on Milwaukee streets.

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