Residents along the border between the Washington Highlands and Pabst Park neighborhoods must have thought the Wild West had descended on them in the wee hours of Monday morning, as car thieves struck and police cars swarmed.
At 12:57 a.m. Monday, a resident of the 6600 block of West Lloyd Street called to say that someone had just driven a red minivan onto her front lawn and abandoned it.
She said she had seen one man run from it to another dark-colored minivan that pulled up on the street.
Then yet another minivan, a blue one, pulled into her neighbor’s driveway, and at least one more person abandoned it and ran to the waiting vehicle, tossing several items into the street as he went.
Police arrived to find both vans still running, with their door locks punched out and their ignitions hotwired.
Among the property strewn in the street were a child’s car seat – and a store receipt. The receipt listed the customer's address in the 2100 block of North 64th Street, just a couple of blocks away.
An officer went to the address and woke a woman there who told them, yes, her boyfriend owned a gold minivan, and it was parked in the driveway.
No, it wasn’t any more. And that raised the possibility a fourth van was involved, because police couldn't be sure this was the "dark-colored" van seen in the getaway.
At any rate, and for whatever reason, the group of at least three car thieves had elected to come to this normally placid area to ditch two vans that were running perfectly well, in favor of stealing at another.
As of the filing of the police report, the Tosa resident's van had not yet been recovered.
The red van proved to have been reported stolen earlier in Milwaukee and was towed when the owner could not be contacted.
The blue van had not been reported missing; however, when Milwaukee police called the owner to say that it was involved in an incident in Wauwatosa, she realized it had been stolen. She followed Milwaukee officers to the scene and recovered her van.
The witness on Lloyd Street described the man who ran from the red van on her lawn as a young white male, about 5 feet 10 inches tall, with a thin build and wearing all dark clothing.
Police call many car thefts such as these "joyrides." Rather than stealing vehicles to sell or chop for parts, thieves without wheels of their own hotwire a ride for the night and abandon it before dawn.
Vans are often targeted simply because there is more room to party.