Madison police point to possible links among a series of violent crimes
Police say they believe more than a dozen recent violent crimes in Madison were likely committed by a couple of groups of young men.
In his daily blog, Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said Monday that 14 crimes — armed robberies, carjackings and one home invasion — between Nov. 20 and Saturday could be related because of their similarities.
Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said investigators believe the crimes have likely been committed by two groups, or “crews.” He said police haven’t yet determined if they’re connected.
Madison “has experienced a rash of increasingly dangerous crimes, creating far too many victims,” Koval wrote.
In many cases the victims have been physically assaulted, police said, despite complying with the men’s orders.
While rashes of robberies aren’t uncommon in Madison, police are alarmed by the use of guns and violence in the recent incidents, Koval said.
“That’s a level of violence we just aren’t going to get used to in Madison,” DeSpain said.
The crimes involved masked men with guns who have approached pedestrians, gas station employees and cab drivers and demanded money or valuables.
On Dec. 6, three gas stations were robbed within an hour. The same day, a woman’s car was stolen from a South Side day care center parking lot after she went inside to pick up a child. Two masked men flung open the car doors and ordered three children out before taking the vehicle.
It was the second carjacking from a day care center in two days. On Dec. 5, two men wearing masks ordered a man out of his car at gunpoint at a Southwest Side day care center. The men allowed the male victim to take his 3-year-old daughter out of her car seat before they drove away.
On Saturday, two armed men robbed and physically assaulted two men in their South Side home.
In addition, suspects have robbed several cab drivers, causing Green Cab to suspend its service in Madison on Sunday. In one case, a cab was stolen, Koval said.
The cab company said it made the decision after four of its drivers were robbed at gunpoint over the weekend.
The cab company said Monday on Facebook that it had resumed service and had discussed its concerns with Madison police, city officials and others.
Though problems remain, Green Cab said it would continue to assess safety concerns.
“Our decision to pull the cabs ... was based on the concerns Green Cab has for our drivers’ and riders’ safety,” the company said. “Those concerns remain in place today and moving forward.”
Normally, cab companies are prohibited by city ordinance from suspending operations and must provide service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But in a statement Monday, Mayor Paul Soglin said the city would not enforce the ordinance until the robbers are arrested.
“None of our local cab companies will be required to provide service if they are concerned for the safety of their drivers,” Soglin said.
DeSpain said investigating and preventing future crimes from the groups is the department’s top priority.
“(T)he Department has ratcheted up our efforts to put an end to these compelling and traumatizing crimes by deploying our full retinue of investigative personnel from our specialized units as well as enlisting the support of our District detectives, forensic investigators and patrol officers,” Koval said in his blog.