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24 catalytic converters reported stolen

Madison police said they have identified 24 cases in which thieves have stolen catalytic converters from parked vehicles since late December.

The thefts in the greater Madison area are mostly from Toyotas, according to police. Four of the vehicles are 4-Runners and five vehicles are Tacoma pickup trucks.

The victimized vehicles have been most frequently been parked near businesses, apartment complexes and workplaces. Police said the thefts have occurred in Monona, Fitchburg and in all Madison police districts, except the south district.

Police said the catalytic converters contain precious metals thieves try to sell at scrap yards.

Thieves tend to target SUVs and trucks because they are easier to crawl under. Police said the thieves seem to like some Toyota models for that reason, and also because there is reportedly a larger quantity of precious metals in certain catalytic converters.

Pot left on stove starts restaurant fire

A pot left on a kitchen stove started a fire that damaged a Madison restaurant Monday morning, according to the Madison Fire Department.

The fire at Taqueria Guadalajara, at 1033 S. Park St., was reported shortly after 7 a.m. and firefighters observed smoke from the restaurant four blocks away.

Investigators said the fire started when a pot left on the stove melted and nearby combustible materials lit on fire.

Total damage is estimated at $225,000, with $150,000 in damage done to the structure and $75,000 in damage done to its contents.

The restaurant owners have told the fire department they plan on reopening at the same location.

Public health officials launch new website

Public Health Madison and Dane County and four Dane County hospitals launched a new website to display countywide population health data.

HealthyDane.org will display publicly-available data and will compare local health data against existing indicators of health. Organizers hope that the website will encourage visitors to find solutions to existing health needs.

The website has drawn praise from executives of Madison and Dane County.

The public-private partnership is created with assistance from the Healthy Communities Institute, a Berkely, Calif.-based company. The hospitals involved are Meriter Hospital, St. Mary's Hospital, Stoughton Hospital and UW Hospital and Clinics.

The cost is shared by the participating hospitals. Madison and Dane County public health officials provide staff support to the website.

Postal Service considers consolidation of Madison, Milwaukee operations

The U.S. Postal Service is considering consolidation of its Madison and Milwaukee processing and distribution operations to increase efficiency.

The Postal Service is down $16 billion this past year, and a study at the Madison processing and distribution center will focus on the possible consolidation of some Madison operations to the Milwaukee Processing and Distribution Center.

Postal Service officials cite declining mail volumes and the large financial deficits the decline has created as the reason for the study.

"And then we have catalogs -- it's almost all third-class, fourth-class mail," said mail carrier Jim Stonestreet. "And as far as cards go, for this generation, it's either email or Facebook."

Through an Area Mail Processing study, the Postal Service said it's examining the Madison plant's efficiency in order to decide whether the center should consolidate.

Wallet with $1,800 cash found in Culver's bathroom

Madison police said a small purse-style wallet with more than $1,800 cash inside was found in the bathroom of a Culver's on Sunday.

A Culver's manager called the Madison Police Department from the restaurant's West Beltline Highway franchise Sunday evening saying a customer had found it in the women's bathroom the day prior.

Police said the manager didn't know who the finder was, but a 59-year-old Janesville woman would like to thank her.

The Janesville woman had come to Madison to do some shopping Saturday and had in her wallet a couple of months worth of rent money that she had received from her son. She had not yet had the chance to deposit the funds.

Police said the woman very accurately described the wallet and its contents, and she has now been reunited with her credit cards and her more than $1,800 worth of cash.

Teens spotted with fake gun on Metro bus

Madison police arrested two teenage boys after witnesses said the boys pulled a real-looking gun from a backpack on a Metro Transit bus last week.

Police said the incident happened Thursday afternoon on Madison's south side. The 13- and 14-year-old middle school students from Madison were arrested the next day.

A police spokesman said witnesses told the bus driver the teens had pulled a real-looking gun from a backpack and possibly pointed it at others while traveling in the 600 block of Buick Street.

Investigators found two BB guns and ammunition at the home of one of the teens.

Police said the boys were tentatively charged with using a facsimile firearm and were taken to the Juvenile Reception Center.

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Fire damages Park St. restaurant

Traffic was diverted while firefighters fought a fire at a restaurant on Park Street Monday morning.

The fire at Taqueria Guadalajara, at 1033 S. Park St., was reported at 7:16 a.m. Firefighters saw thick black smoke coming from the building as they approached, according to fire department spokesperson Lori Wirth. She said the fire was knocked down within 10 to 15 minutes.

Other nearby buildings were not damaged, according to Wirth.

She said there were initial reports of someone trapped in an upstairs apartment but no one was found, and no one was injured.

Investigators are at the scene trying to determine the cause of the fire.

Wirth said the owners said they're interested in reopening at the location.

Traffic on Park Street was diverted to Wingra Drive until about 9 a.m.