In the space of just a week, a 16-year-old Brookfield runaway's spree of crime in a Wauwatosa neighborhood took him from entering unlocked cars to burglary to auto theft, according to police reports.
He was arrested Wednesday in Milwaukee, sleeping in a stolen minivan.
Beginning Oct. 19, numerous reports of cars being entered and rifled began coming in from an area of just a few blocks in Tosa's northernmost neighborhood, west of Madison Park.
In two instances on successive nights, Oct. 21 and 22, residents spotted the unknown youth rummaging through their cars and chased him off.
Then, once over the weekend and again on Tuesday, residents reported that their garages had been forcibly broken into – in one case, it was an attached garage and the door into the house had been unlocked, although the home wasn't entered.
Meanwhile, also on Tuesday, a resident of the 4500 block of North 105th Street reported that some time between 8:30 and 9:15 a.m. someone had stolen her minivan out of her driveway after first entering her open, attached garage and stealing the keys. The owner said she had gone for a walk and the van was missing when she returned. A neighbor saw the van being driven away but he was unaware it was being stolen and did not see who was driving.
The minivan was recovered Wednesday in the 6700 block of West Keefe Avenue in Milwaukee, and the Brookfield boy was found sleeping in the back.
In the van was a brown hooded sweatshirt as described on a number of occasions when the suspect was seen entering cars and peering into garages – along with other clothing, a Honda wheel rim, two gas cans and a watch with no band. The van's owner said none of that property was his.
The boy was turned over to Wauwatosa police and agreed to answer questions. He said he and a girl had run away from a juvenile shelter in Waukesha a week before, and he had been hanging around Wauwatosa and Milwaukee in the Madison Park area since.
He told officers they had hooked up with two of the girl’s male friends, whom he claimed to know only by their first names. He admitted that together those two acquaintances had done a number of car entries and garage burglaries in the neighborhood.
He also admitted he was present when the minivan was stolen after he and one of his accomplices found the keys unattended in the garage. He was booked on suspicion of two counts of burglary, one count of auto theft and one count of theft by fraud.
Accounts of the burglaries
At 4:20 p.m. Tuesday, a resident of the 4600 block of North 104th Street reported that some time since Monday afternoon someone had broken into his detached garage by forcing open a window. He said some of his belongings had been disturbed, the seat of his motorcycle had been slightly damaged, and a red gas can was missing.
The man’s wife had called police that morning to report a suspicious character looking into their neighbor’s garage and gave a description that matched earlier ones in the car entries: white, about 6 feet tall, thin, with wavy brown hair and wearing black-framed glasses.
A resident of the 4500 block of North 105th Street had reported that some time over the weekend someone had removed a storm window on her attached garage, then opened the inside window.
A couple of items just inside the window had been knocked over, but nothing else was disturbed and nothing was missing. The woman said that the door from the garage into her home had been unlocked at the time but she did not believe anyone had entered.