Car thefts up 90 percent in Milwaukee this year; and police fear it's only going to get worse

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- It's a crime spree Milwaukee police say is unique to the city of Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Police Department says there has been a 90 percent increase in reported car thefts this year, as compared to this time last year -- and police worry it's only going to get worse.

Through June of 2014, police say nearly 3,000 car thefts have been reported. There were fewer than 2,000 in the first half of 2013.

Now, investigators at MPD's District 3 are trying to solve one of the city's most recent car thefts.

It was early Sunday morning, September 7th when police broke some bad news to the owner of a van, who lives near 14th and Juneau.

"They said 'do you know where your vehicle is?' and I'm walking out and I'm coming down the stairs and I'm like 'it`s right...' and I couldn`t even get the 'there' out of my mouth," the van's owner said.

The van's owner asked that FOX6 News protect her identity. She is one of many victims, as Milwaukee police say reported car thefts have increased by 90 percent from last year.

"Nobody`s got this. This is a significant problem in our city. There`s many pieces of it. We`ve arrested more people for stolen cars than ever before -- but we`ve got some real challenges out there. It`s become cool," Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said.

The van stolen from 14th and Juneau is a 1999 Dodge Caravan. Police say that has been the most frequently stolen model in 2014, as thieves seem to be targeting that type of ride.

"Our big challenge has been cars older than 2005, mainly Chrysler products. They`ve become the vehicle of choice because they are very easy to steal," Chief Flynn said.

Chief Flynn says he believes part of the problem is too many repeat juvenile offenders get off without having to serve any time.

"Obviously, the juvenile system is full of a lot of offenders. What we`re urging it to do is be strategic. Take a look at the impact on the community certain offenses and certain offenders are having," Chief Flynn said.

At least one victim says she's most worried about the impact her stolen van might have on others. She fears those thieves will use her van to victimize others.

"That scares me. I know it wouldn`t be my fault, but if someone got hurt, it would be on my conscience," the victim said.

According to police, nearly 75 percent of those arrested this year for auto theft are 20 years old or younger.

Police worry this problem might only get worse, because historically, there are more reported car thefts in the second half of the year.

CLICK HERE to take a look at an MPD Power Point presentation detailing car thefts from January to June 2014 and how that compares to this period last year.