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Thieves cash in on $20,000 left in car at Brookfield movie theater

Jan. 30, 2013

Town of Brookfield Police continue to search for suspects in an ongoing string of car break-ins at Majestic Cinema, most notably punctuated by one report in which a man said he lost $20,000 cash contained in a briefcase.

Police responded to such a report at the Marcus theater complex, 770 Springdale Road, at 11:55 p.m. Jan. 19. The New Berlin man told officers that the briefcase, which also contained a $500 laptop computer, was taken from his car after the thieves broke the rear passenger window.

As to why he was keeping so much cash in his car, the man told police he is a bar promoter and that his intentions were to "deposit the currency, but the bank was closed." The victim told police he thought he may have been followed to the theater.

But police reports show he was not the only victim that night.

An MP3 player worth $400 and a purse worth $200 were also taken from a locked vehicle at the theater that evening.

Similar thefts and break-ins have been reported at the Majestic and other town of Brookfield businesses since Christmas. Purses, GPS units, cash, MP3 players, and tablet and laptop computers left out in the open have been taken from locked cars.

Sgt. Detective Sean Schmidt said authorities believe the thieves use a screwdriver to push onto the window frame until the window pops or breaks.

Detectives have some leads, Schmidt said. A suspect vehicle seen on surveillance video looked similar to one involved in other vehicle break-ins at Chuck E Cheese, 19121 W. Bluemound Road, and incidents in Mequon. But the video still doesn't provide enough information to make an arrest.

"We're getting decent video images of what looks like a darker SUV," Schmidt said. "But the camera doesn't zoom in, so it's too far for us to get a license plate. We see a consistent, suspicious vehicle, but it's not at a distance where we can get a positive identification."

That hasn't stopped officers from trying to track down the thieves. Additional patrols have been scheduled for the theater's parking lot and other businesses the thieves frequent.

"We've stepped up patrols and have sent out alerts to affected businesses," Schmidt said. "Chuck E Cheese and The Melting Pot are other businesses we are targeting."

Schmidt said the department will take additional steps, if necessary, if the extra patrols don't help.

Carlo Petrick, marketing and communications manager for Marcus Theatres, said the company is working with police to catch the thieves.

"Marcus Theatres and its private security contractor are working with the town of Brookfield Police Department to assist them in their investigations of car break-ins that have occurred recently at several locations in the Brookfield/Waukesha area," Petrick said.

In the meantime, Schmidt said people can protect themselves by not leaving valuables out in the open.

"The common denominator is plain view," Schmidt said. "Duffel bags, briefcases, or anything like that is what they're looking for. We're trying to remind people to keep those items in the trunk or out of plain view. Locking you car isn't enough."

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