Perpetrators of a rash of strong-arm robberies around the city in recent months are doing so at least in part for kicks, police say.
Madison Police Chief Noble Wray and Capt. Jay Lengfeld, commander of the west district, held a news conference Friday afternoon, to report on the police department's efforts to curtail the more than 30 muggings since early April.
The muggings -- by young men ranging in age from teens to mid-20s -- have involved violence or intimidation and have occurred in all parts of the city, including downtown, the west and east sides, and the city's bike trails. In some cases, victims are distracted and then attacked.
Most robberies have been at night, though some have been during the daytime. Most of the suspects are affiliated with gangs.
"For some of the perpetrators, it's almost a game," Wray said. "Others want the iPod or cash."
The poor economy could be a factor, but is probably not the main reason, Lengfeld said: "I don't think we can say they were all looking for jobs and couldn't get jobs."
Police have made some arrests: On June 10, three boys, ages 16, 14, and 15, were arrested after a 24-year old man was knocked down on West Badger Road in the afternoon. Police have identified other suspects and spoken with them, though there was not enough evidence to make arrests.
The department has made the crimes a priority, Wray says, utilizing the city's anti-gang unit, community police teams, and the newly formed special investigations unit, which targets habitual criminals.
Part of the strategy is to let criminals know the police are looking for them, Wray says. "The risk [of committing the crimes] is pretty high, but the reward is pretty low," Wray says. "In most cases, they're getting very little cash."
"If they're going to continue to do this they're going to get caught," he adds. "These young men have family members and friends and they need to know they're out there victimizing the community."
In a news release, the police department outlined several steps to stay safe. These include staying in groups, sticking to busy, well-lit areas, keeping ID separate from valuables, and being aware of your surroundings by not texting or listening to an iPod.