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Portage Police seeing rise in auto thefts
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Portage Police seeing rise in auto thefts

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Portage Police Chief Klafke checks on a vehicle parked outside the police station.

Portage Police Department has seen a rise in car thefts in the area since mid-May. Authorities advise residents to lock car and keep keys out of car when not operating to help with thefts.

Portage Chief of Police Keith Klafke said it is an issue with juveniles and not just in Portage. He said six vehicles were stolen in the last month within the city of Portage.

It’s easy to prevent being a victim of car-related thefts. Here are some steps to help prevent your contents from being stolen from your vehicle.

“Juveniles in this position are a dangerous combination with these car thefts,” he said. “They might not realize the magnitude of the situation. We don’t want anyone to get hurt. Some of these thefts have been involved in pursuits with police. These suspects are fleeing and making dangerous decisions.”

Klafke said a number of area departments including the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and state authorities are working together on the issue.

“There’s a lot of things involved here,” Klafke said. “The last thing we want is a group of 15-year-olds behind the wheel of a stolen car, then flee and crash.”

Klafke said the juvenile court system is frustrating in these instances.

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In the past, suspects have stolen a car from the Madison area, driven to Portage or another area then stolen another car in that area and driven back to Madison.

“That still does happen,” Klafke said. He said there is an ongoing investigation into the thefts that includes local police departments, sheriff’s offices including Columbia and Sauk counties, and state officials.

Klafke did not give additional details on suspects, but said they are mostly likely not from the Portage area. He said vehicles have been recovered from Madison, Verona and Fitchburg since the thefts began last month.

Be observant and lock up

Klafke said the No. 1 thing people can do to help with this issue is being observant.

“Most of these thefts have happened at residences,” Klafke said. “If you see a vehicle looking like they are circling a parking lot or canvassing the area for no reason—report it. Any suspicious activity should be reported.”

Other things people can do to prevent auto theft is keep the car locked, don’t leave keys in ignition or out in the open, and park under street lights.

“If you can secure your vehicle in a garage that is best, if not park under street lights,” Klafke said. He added there is no pattern to the string of thefts.

“These are opportunistic thefts,” Klafke said. “Most of them are the car is unlocked and the keys are in the ignition. In one instance the car was still running when it was stolen.”

Since mid-May Portage Police has seen a rise in car thefts in the area. Authorities advise residents to lock car and keep keys out of car when not operating to help with thefts.

Portage Chief of Police Keith Klafke said it is an issue with juveniles and it is not just in Portage where this happens. He said six vehicles have been stolen in the last month within the city of Portage.

“Juveniles in this position are a dangerous combination with these car thefts,” said. “They might not realize the magnitude of the situation. We don’t want anyone to get hurt. Some of these thefts have been involved in pursuits with police. These suspects are fleeing and making dangerous decisions.”

Klafke said a number of area departments including the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and state authorities.

“There’s a lot of things involved here,” Klafke said. “The last thing we want is a group of 15 year-olds behind the wheel of a stolen car, then flee and crash.”

The criminal charge for these cases would be take vehicle without owner consent. Klafke said the juvenile court system is frustrating in these instances.

In the past suspects have stolen a car from the Madison area, drive it to Portage or another area then steal another car in the area and head back to Madison.

“That still does happen,” Klafke said. He said there is an ongoing investigation into these thefts that includes, local police departments, sheriff’s offices including Columbia and Sauk counties, and state officials.

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Klafke did not give additional details on suspects but said they are mostly likely not from the Portage area. He added vehicles have been recovered from Madison, Verona and Fitchberg since the thefts began last month.

Being observant

Klafke said the number one thing people can do to help with this issue is being observant in your community.

“Most of these thefts have happened at residences,” Klafke said. “If you see a vehicle looking like they are circling a parking lot of canvassing the area for no reason—report it. Any suspicious activity should be reported.”

Other things people can do to prevent auto theft is keep the car locked, don’t leave keys in ignition or out in the open, and park under street lights.

“If you can secure your vehicle in a garage that is best, if not park under street lights,” Klafke said. He added there is no pattern to the string of thefts.

“These are opportunistic thefts,” Klafke said. “Most of them are the car is unlocked and the keys are in the ignition. In one instance the car was still running when it was stolen.”

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