GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Police Department says auto thefts are up 27% compared to this time last year. Officers tell us 28 cars have been stolen, since the beginning of the year. More than half of the vehicles stolen had keys left in the car. It's not happening in one particular area, but across the city.
Chief Andrew Smith says most of these crimes are committed by minors, some of which aren't even old enough to drive.
"A couple weeks ago we had two girls high school age that we caught in a stolen car,” said Chief Smith. “We've been following this youngster who's 12. We believe he's for sure stolen 2 cars and we believe he may have 5 or 6 that he's stolen over the past few weeks."
Smith says they're just waiting to see if people leave their keys in the ignition, so they can take the car for a joy ride. Local drivers we spoke with say they're sad kids are resorting to this.
“It's one of those unfortunate events where people just make really bad decisions,” said Green Bay resident, Adam Gieseler. “They think it's a game and it's really not a game.”
Smith says this crime can be reduced by 50% if people just take their keys with them. He also recommends people get a remote starter installed in their vehicle or a club that attaches to and locks the steering wheel in place.
The Police Department tells us a vast majority of the stolen cars have been retrieved.
Police also tried putting an ordinance in place fining anyone leaving their keys in their car in public, but it did not make it through city council.