Waukesha Police: Opioid epidemic to blame spike in armed robberies

WAUKESHA - A string of robberies leads to the discovery of a deeper problem in Waukesha. Waukesha police say they're seeing an alarming spike in armed robberies with one thing to blame; the opioid epidemic that's sweeping across southeast Wisconsin.

"It's a problem that's bigger than law enforcement, it's a societal problem," said Lieutenant Jerry Habanek.

Armed robberies doubled in Waukesha from 2016 to 2017. Surprisingly police say a majority if not all of them were connected to buying opiates.

"These are separate, these are random, these are 16 unrelated incidents, unrelated people," Habanek said. "The only way they're related is they're addicted to opiates or they're stealing for their drugs."

Habanek said the crimes were widespread across the city. They happened at gas stations, chain stores, houses, streets and parking lots. The armed suspects behind them often threatening lives over cash.

"The people that were doing the armed robberies were trying to get money to purchase opioids," he said.

Habanek said the proof comes from suspect interviews or finding opiates such as fentanyl and heroin on the thieves once they're in custody.

"Out of the 16 armed robberies that we've had, we solved 12 of them with successful arrests and a lot of those were due to businesses and residences having video, so it is a valuable thing to think about," Habanek said.

Besides being aware of your surroundings and locking doors, Waukesha police say the best way you can help is by purchasing surveillance cameras for your home.

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