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CAUGHT ON CAMERA: Wausau woman details her garage and car being burglarized

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) -- The Wausau Police Department said in 2021 alone there have been 14 reported garage burglaries and vehicle thefts.

Categorized under vehicle thefts can be theft of auto parts or theft of items from inside of a vehicle.

Police call them crimes of opportunity and usually become more frequent as the weather warms up.

To prevent yourself from becoming a victim, they encourage residents to always lock garages and car doors, even if your car is parked in a garage.

Residents are encouraged to buy some sort of camera or security system as well.

"Sometimes it's illicit drug habits," Wausau Police Officer Andrew Kutchenriter said. "Wanting to get property that you can sell for money so you can support your habit. Other times because it's just there and it's low hanging fruit."

Officer Kutchenriter said in addition to locking garage and car doors, never leave your keys inside of the car and don't leave behind anything of value. Examples include wallets, firearms, or even electronics.

Deb Smith, a Wausau resident, said she was recently the victim of theft.

Pictured is Deb Smith looking at one of the attached security camera videos on her phone.

The morning of February 12 seemed to be pretty normal for Deb. She got up around 6:30 a.m. and checked her phone. She immediately noticed motion alert notification from her garage security camera.

She opened it, and discovered a wake up call in the form of the motion being detected at 3:30 that morning.

Deb said she was asleep during that time, so she knows it was not her. Upon opening the alert she discovered two attached videos.

She admits, she forgot to lock her garage door that night. However, she said living in a small friendly town like Wausau, she didn't think anything of it.

The video unveiled a man taking advantage of the unlocked door. He let himself in and took his time browsing around the garage and inside of her car.

Still image from Deb's security camera shows man looking through her car's visor.

"He was going through my car," Deb said. "He checked the console. He checked the glove compartment, and he checked the visor as well."

In the video it shows there was no real sense of urgency. The man took a flashlight and a lunchables-like snack pack from the car.

She said she would've never known if it were not for her camera that she installed in the garage the week before.

Regardless of being able to see what happened inside of the detached garage, there's still a sense of feeling violated.

"I didn't feel like I was in harm's way, but it still gave me a very uncomfortable feeling," Deb added. "Really creepy to know that someone went into my garage and went through my vehicle, and was looking through my stuff in my car."

On the way out, Deb's camera flashed a blue light that caught the man's attention.

It appears this was the last thing to happen as the man exited the garage.

Deb said she encourages everyone to invest in a camera or several, as well as making sure people are more aware of the importance to lock all of your doors and windows.

In the video it's noted that the man appears to not be wearing gloves as he made his way into the garage and through Deb's car.

She asked police if they could just collect the fingerprints as evidence since the man's face is almost completely covered.

According to Wausau Police Department, fingerprints as evidence can take months or even up to a year to get back from the crime lab in Madison.

Also, the dollar value of items stolen impacts the level of offense that a suspect could face.

Charges in this particular case would be theft and trespassing among other potential charges, if identified.

The dollar value of items stolen could also result in those charges along with a felony, which would give police more incentive to gather fingerprint samples.

Pictured is the alleged suspect that entered Deb's garage and car.

Deb was told by police that the video and image of the suspect is under review, and for now it's important to hang onto the biggest piece of evidence at this time which is the video.

Rashad Williams

News 9 Reporter

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