GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Deputies say they have arrested two of four people believed to be involved with at least two purse snatchings north of Grand Rapids Thursday.
The first robbery happened in the afternoon in the parking lot of the Sam’s Club on Alpine Avenue north of 4 Mile Road in Alpine Township. The Kent County Sheriff’s Office said people in a stolen car stole a 43-year-old Grand Rapids woman’s purse while she was putting her groceries in her car. There was a struggle, during which the woman fell and sustained minor injuries.
Within the next 30 minutes, the sheriff’s office said, her credit card was used at the Meijer on 10 Mile Road near US-131, west of Rockford. Deputies say the thieves then went to the Meijer’s gas station. One of them, wearing a mask, opened a 50-year-old Rockford woman’s car and took her purse.
On Friday, News 8 spoke with a Rockford woman, who claims she was the victim of one of the snatchings. She chose to remain anonymous but said the suspects didn’t get away with anything too valuable, as she had taken her wallet with her while she pumped gas.
“I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something like, ‘You aren’t going to do or say anything,'” she said. “He opened my passenger side door and took my purse and then they left … I was definitely in shock. I didn’t know what was going on. I just stood there and let them take my things. When they pulled out, I said to the man getting gas right next to me, ‘They just took my purse.'”
After the description of the suspects’ vehicle — a stolen car — went out, a sheriff’s office detective spotted it on US-131 at the S-Curve. Wyoming police tried to stop the vehicle when it pulled into a restaurant lot. But the suspect vehicle rammed the detective’s car, the sheriff’s office said, and one of the people inside took off.
That person, a 16-year-old from Wyoming, was soon caught and taken to juvenile detention.
The stolen car was later found abandoned in Grand Rapids.
Detectives soon identified another suspect, a 20-year-old Grand Rapids man. He was arrested on unrelated charges, but deputies believe he was involved in the purse snatchings.
Detectives think two more people were also involved, and they’re still looking for them.
“What is concerning and continues to be a concern is the fact that we have our younger generation, our ones that are going to be keeping us moving forward into the future, committing these violent crimes,” Kent County Undersheriff Chuck DeWitt said.
The sheriff’s office said it has seen a number of purse snatchings recently, often perpetrated by teen boys in stolen cars and wearing hoods and masks. They apparently drive around parking lots looking for victims. Deputies warned people to be on the lookout for anything suspicious and report it to police.
“Again, it’s the stolen car theme,” DeWitt said. “The suspects used the stolen car, and it was later recovered in the city of Grand Rapids … Being vigilant is crucial, always paying attention to your surroundings.”
In March, deputies busted seven people, five of them minors, in a purse snatching ring. DeWitt said they don’t know yet whether these latest arrests are related.
Earlier this month, purses were snatched from two women in the Holland and Jenison areas. In those cases, the women were in parking lots when someone from a car with multiple people inside stole their purses.
Anyone with information about any of the robberies is asked to call the Kent County Sheriff’s Department at 616.632.6100 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.