GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - As police continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding a break-in and sexual assault on the west side of Grand Rapids, neighborhood organizers said they can provide free home security checks for residents in the area.
The assault in the 600 block of Veto Street NW, just blocks away from the Grand Valley State University Pew Campus, happened in the early Monday morning. 24 Hour News 8 has learned a party hosted by four young men living there ended around 4 a.m.
They went to sleep and then police responded at about 5:30 a.m. to a call reporting a sexual assault at the house.
Police initially said the attack appears to have been random, but Tuesday they said it may not be.
Captain Jeffrey Hertel of the Grand Rapids Police Department said that he didn't think the suspects randomly picked a house to break in to on that street, but he wouldn't divulge any more details on a possible connection.
Hertel also told 24 Hour News 8 some of the stolen items have been recovered by officers, but wouldn't say how or where those were found, again citing it is an open investigation.
The Southwest Area Neighbors (SWAN), alongside the Creston and Heritage Hill Associations, held a joint press conference Tuesday afternoon.
They wanted to spread the information that they offer free services for residents in the area, including security safety checks. That's basically when an association member will walk through a home with a resident, look for security concerns and suggest ways to fix them. They also have literature and strongly suggest window locks.
At the news conference, association members said they were shocked at the violence in what they called a very serious incident.
"We're like any other neighborhood," said SWAN crime prevention organizer Mary Bueche. "We have our fair share of property related crimes and so forth, but to have strangers come in and commit the type of violence that they did with this incident is not common."
"This is one of the worst crimes I have heard of in a very long time," Lester said. "There have been some very sad crimes but this one, the extent of the violence is horrible."
Juan Fuller grew up in this neighborhood and plans to watch his son do the same.
"Usually it seems to be pretty safe. I've had no problems," he told 24 Hour News 8. "I've lived on the west side my whole life, and like I said, I never ran into any issues. It seems pretty safe, but when stuff like that happens it does throw you for a loop."
But a few streets over, Keegan Tustin said he's noticed more criminal activity in the neighborhood lately.
"There was a shooting over there and there was an assault over there," he said, pointing out spots in his neighborhood. "It's, like, in a month, so it's not necessarily a good thing, I guess."
But, he said, he doesn't feel in danger.
"I have a dog, too, and a roommate. There's usually somebody at our house at all times. Not worried about getting robbed or anything like that."
Barb Lester of the Heritage Hill Association said residents need to be aware of what's going on in their area.
"I think that it varies," Lester told 24 Hour News 8. "It's like, how safe is your block? Well, not the week that you have a burglary or a car theft, it's unsafe, but the other 51 weeks of the year you're fine. So now this may feel like it's a dangerous area, but this could happen anywhere."
The crime statistics released by the Grand Rapids Police Department showed that robberies in the West Side Service area were up by more than 5%, but most other crimes, like burglary, were down. The West Side Service area comprises more than just the SWAN community.
They suggest people in all Grand Rapids neighborhoods, especially college students who may not know the area as well, make sure their doors are locked and keep valuables out of plain sight and away from windows.
Lester told 24 Hour News 8 there have been two cases in the past week where someone has cut a hole in a screen to grab a valuable, like a laptop, right out of someone's home.
Longtime West Side resident Fuller spoke for many.
"All-in-all, Grand Rapids, the west side, isn't that bad of an area. It's just some people are going to ruin it for everyone."
Anyone with information on the assault is asked to contact GRPD at 616.456.3604 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.
Residents can call their local neighborhood association if they want a security survey:
- Baxter Neighborhood Association: 247.9550
- Creston Neighborhood Association: 454.7900
- East Hills Council of Neighbors: 454.9079
- Easton Community Association: 451.3025
- Garfield Park Neighborhood Association: 241.2443
- Heritage Hill Association: 459.8950
- Madison Area Neighborhood Association: 245.3371
- Midtown Neighborhood Association: 732.9191
- Neighbors of Belknap Lookout: 454.8413
- Roosevelt Park/Grandville Ave. Neighborhood Association: 243.2489
- South East End Neighborhood Association: 247.0900
- South West Area Neighbors: 456.9190
- West Grand Neighborhood Organizer:
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