Kids as young as 12 stealing cars in Green Bay

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - They're not old enough to have a driver's license, but kids as young as 12 have been busted for stealing cars in Green Bay.

Police say car owners are making it too easy for thieves to take advantage of them.

The thefts happen in broad daylight. Some happen in the middle of the night. Stolen car cases span the entire city.

"We've had 28 stolen vehicles so far this year," says Commander Paul Ebel, Green Bay Police Department.

Many of the cases share a common theme.

"People are leaving their keys in the car, or they're starting their car and leaving their doors unlocked with the keys in the car," Ebel says.

Green Bay Police describe those 17 cases as crimes of opportunity.

Thieves take the cars on rides across town. One vehicle was stolen, recovered and stolen again before the owner could get to it.

"They're using them to get where they need to go, and then they dump them," Ebel says.

Detectives don't believe there's an organized crew behind the thefts. They do know juveniles are responsible for several of the crimes.

In one case, a 12-year-old made it to Milwaukee and Madison in a stolen vehicle.

"He's been reported as a runaway, and we found him in Milwaukee one time and Madison another time," Ebel says.

He's not the only the only juvenile suspect.

"Somebody had their car warming up and some students were skipping school and came across it and hopped in."

Commander Ebel says that led to a short police chase. Officers stopped the vehicle and found kids under age 16 inside.

"It's extremely dangerous because they don't have the driving skills that somebody else would, and they're fleeing from police," Ebel says. "It's a very dangerous situation that could cause the loss of life."

Police have referred the young suspects to juvenile intake.

"We do process a lot of them for prints, so hopefully as some of these kids get older and we have them on file for fingerprints, we'll be able to go back and hold them accountable," Ebel says.