Break-ins Have Residents Nervous on the North Shore
Shorewood, Whitefish Bay are beefing up patrols after two dozen burglaries in the past two months.
In the last two months, dozens of area residents have been victimized by a rash of burglaries. Patch editors Adam McCoy and Jeff Rumage take an in-depth look the nature of the crimes and what police are doing about it.
On the night of Dec. 30, someone kicked open the back door of a Whitefish Bay home and stole a flat-screen television, laptop and jewelry, and was out of the house within a matter of minutes.
The Hollywood Boulevard homeowner, who was out of town at the time, said he was shocked to receive a phone call the next day from police. His neighbor called the cops after noticing his door was left open.
"It's never happened to me before," said the homeowner, who asked not to be identified. "You always think you're pretty safe, so it's a shock when something like this happens."
Whitefish Bay and Shorewood police departments each have reported 12 burglaries in the past two months. In December alone, Whitefish Bay has seen eight burglaries, while Shorewood has had seven. Glendale police have investigated six burglaries in the past month. Police in all three communities believe the same group of people are likely responsible for most of the crimes.
A cautious community
Although the recent crime spree comes as a shock to some in the near-north suburbs, some residents interviewed this week said the burglaries might be a wakeup call for those who believe they don't have to lock their doors.
"There is a misconception here in Shorewood that we are all perfectly safe at every moment, and it couldn't be farther from the truth," said resident Barbara Dallman.
Jennifer DeLaura of Whitefish Bay said she thinks burglaries happen more often than people think.
"I think it is important to talk about burglaries," she said. "I think a lot of times they are kept under wraps so no one really knows that it's happening. So, maybe talking about it a little more so people understand the reality of it."
Shorewood resident Michael Oldani said the village is still a great walking community, but it is up to residents to keep it that way.
"We only have so much police, and then it is going to be up to the average person to get a dog, get an alarm — do some things to help deter (burglars)," he said.
Mike Brown said neighbors up the street in his Whitefish Bay neighborhood were broken into, but he still feels safe. He said police have been responsive to the break-ins and noted that ultimately it is up to residents to protect their neighborhood.
"It is not the police force's job to make sure we are taking things out of our cars and making sure we are locking our homes," he said.
More cops on the street
Both Shorewood and Whitefish Bay police departments have beefed up their patrols in the neighborhoods and during the time periods when burglaries are most common.
In Whitefish Bay, Sgt. Ron Stefanski said officers are stepping up patrols on Henry Clay Street, Shoreland Avenue and Bay Ridge Avenue. Seven burglaries occurred in that southwestern portion of the village in the last two months.
"Not that the rest of the village is being ignored, but we are devoting a little extra time to that area," he said.
Stefanski also said burglars appear to be leaving stolen property outside, then calling someone to pick it up or going to get a large vehicle to carry the items away.
Shorewood Police Chief David Banaszynski said he believes the North Shore break-ins are related because they have several common threads. He said most burglars try to be stealthy and quiet, but these burglars are noisily breaking down doors and lifting windows.
"We believe it's a similar group of people doing our burglaries and probably doing most of the North Shore burglaries," he said. "Our detectives are in contact with each other daily talking about suspects. They're taking the same type of objects in every burglary, they're entering homes similarly, so we believe it is the same group of people."
Banaszynski said one part of the equation is the holiday season.
"In December, people have more property in their house, more money in their house, and they're home less because they are visiting relatives, visiting friends," he said. "So, they have less time at home and more property at home — that is more opportunity for a criminal to come in."
While physical evidence is limited in the North Shore burglaries, Shorewood police caught a break when a 16-year-old boy was arrested and confessed to two burglaries. Police believe he is connected to at least one more.
Glendale police officer Joel Dhein's instincts also tell him the same group of people is behind the crimes. Glendale has seen six burglaries in the last month, and Dhein said they are working with other departments to find the burglars. Once they do, he believes the crime wave will die down.
"Usually, when we catch one person or a couple different people, it's funny how everything settles down," he said.
Is your neighborhood safe? Check out our interactive crime map of Shorewood and Whitefish Bay.
What can you do to protect your home?
See what Shorewood Police Chief David Banaszynski said police are doing and residents can do to curb the trend.