Milwaukee police warn of armed robberies, thefts in downtown area

Milwaukee police are warning the public about a recent trend of armed robberies and thefts from vehicles in the city’s downtown entertainment areas.

Police said suspects are using stolen vehicles – usually Kia and Hyundai models – to target people who are distracted as they enter or exit their own vehicles, or are sitting stationary in their vehicles. The robberies occur primarily between the hours of 4 and 7 pm, and between 11 pm and 2 am

Suspects are targeting personal property items such as purses and cell phones.

Police recommended taking these steps to stay safe:

  • Park in well-lit areas where cameras may be present.
  • Minimize distractions such as talking on the phone while sitting in a car.
  • Make sure no valuable items such as purses, money, electronics and guns are visible from within your car.
  • If a gun is in your car, make sure it is secured in a lock box.
  • If you see suspicious activity, call Milwaukee police’s non-emergency number, 414-933-4444.

Reports of offenses such as burglary, robbery, theft and car theft all dropped in Milwaukee between 13% and 23% last year, against national trends. Much of those offenses have continued to drop a month into 2023, but reports of robbery have climbed 14% as of Tuesday, according to police data.

Police have called on the public numerous times in the last several years to secure any firearm left in their vehicle, especially those parked outside bars. Officials have said stolen guns have played a crucial role in fueling the city’s historic gun violence since 2020.

In June last year, police released data showing reports of guns being stolen from vehicles more than doubled from 2019 to 2021, when almost 900 guns were taken. Of all the city’s stolen guns, 63% were stolen from cars that year.

Juneau Town, which covers a wide swath of the city’s downtown, along with other popular bar spots in the city such as the Lower East Side and Walker’s Point, are some of the neighborhoods with the highest concentration of reported stolen guns, according to police.

The police’s warning about the use of Kias and Hyundais in the recent robbery trend also comes as Alds. Milele Coggs and Khalif Rainey issued a joint statement Tuesday calling on the two car manufacturers to provide long-term solutions to car owners.

The statement was in reaction to Progressive and State Farm announcing they were dropping insurance coverage of some older Kia and Hyundai models because of a rise in thefts.

Certain models of Kias and Hyundais have been found to have a design flaw that makes them vulnerable to theft without setting off an alarm. The issue has led to ballooning reports of car theft since 2020, with police indicating the majority of cars stolen in Milwaukee since then are Kias and Hyundais.

“Frankly, we believe the city should seriously consider suing them both,” Coggs and Rainey said. “We are asking both Kia and Hyundai to step up and provide a long-term, effective and free solution to the ongoing issues caused by their cars. Our residents deserve nothing less.”

Contact Elliot Hughes at [email protected] or 414-704-8958. Follow him on Twitter @elliothughes12.

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