By Brandi Makuski
It seems to happen in waves every spring and summer.
Each year, Stevens Point police say they receive reports of thefts from unattended vehicles — sometimes several in a single day.
Since June 23, about 30 such thefts were reported to the Stevens Point Police Department, most from the city’s north side. Despite the high number, it’s often a tough crime to combat — especially when motorists don’t lock their vehicles.
“Another problem is, some of these don’t get reported right away,” said Assistant Police Chief Tom Zenner. “Sometimes it’s a vehicle that’s been sitting in the driveway all weekend, and nothing out of the ordinary is noticed until Monday morning.”
Zenner said more often than not, thieves seek out vehicles that are left unlocked.
“Typically, they’re car-shopping,” Zenner said. “They find a door is open and it’s a crime of opportunity. People don’t always stop to remember this isn’t Mayberry; they need to lock their cars.”
Assistant Police Chief Mike Rottier said the dept. put two officers on bike patrol throughout northside neighborhoods in an attempt to catch the culprits, but did not encounter any car break-ins.
But the thefts are bringing some renewed interest to the department’s longtime, but not often utilized, bike patrol program.
“A lot of the younger officers, especially the new-hires, are expressing interest in being involved in the program,” said Zenner, who conducted bike patrols himself in the past.
Bike patrols, he added, are typically “park and ride” patrols, where officers conduct regular patrols in a squad car for a few hours, then park and scout neighborhoods on a bicycle in pairs.
“I wouldn’t say it’s used as often as we would want, but it’s really driven on manpower,” said Zenner, “but it’s always good for people to see officers out on bikes in the neighborhoods.”