Creek jumpers suspected in crimes spanning 2 counties

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Authorities believe five people who jumped into a creek to try to escape Grand Rapids police are connected to string of cellphone thefts in Berrien and Ottawa counties.

Kentwood police say the investigation started after thieves broke into a cellphone store in St. Joseph around 3 a.m. Friday. Police say the burglars got away with approximately $10,000 worth of cellphones and other devices from the store. 

About 90 minutes after the crime, a tip led Kentwood and Grand Rapids police to a group of five suspects in a vehicle at Pheasant Ridge Apartments, located off 32nd Street near Breton Avenue SE in Kentwood. 

Police said all five suspects got out of the vehicle and jumped into a nearby creek. One adult and two juvenile suspects were arrested, but officers are still searching for two others. No suspect descriptions were available.

Police said they found stolen phones inside the suspects’ vehicle. Kentwood detectives say most of the stolen items have been recovered.

GRPD said investigators are looking into whether the incident is linked to a series of other recent cellphone thefts in Grand Rapids, Kentwood and Walker.

Ottawa County investigators believe the suspects are also tied to several similar crimes in their county, including two cases in Jenison, one in Allendale and one in Holland Township, all which happened in October.

In most cases, the suspects used a brick to break into the places they targeted.

“They threw it through the front door and then they stole all of our Apple displays,” explained Brandon Hewitt, who manages the Verizon store on Lake Michigan Drive in Allendale.

Hewiitt says Samsung phones were also taken. The thieves got away with about $8,500 in high-end display phones.

The burglars came through the front door of two other Ottawa County locations. On Oct. 16, they got more brazen, walking into the Sprint Store on Baldwin Street in Jenison while it was open and stealing phones.

Despite the thieves’ efforts, the phones can’t be activated in the U.S.

“In the United States, we have (a) lost and stolen list that is shared amongst the carriers. And so if a phone is on that list, it cannot be activated on any carrier in the United States. But that does not stop them from activating on another carrier overseas,” explained Hewitt.

And even if that doesn’t happen, each phone still holds quite a bit of value, especially in their components.

“Like (take) the screens off, the batteries out and sell those because they’re genuine parts. So they actually have value to them,” Hewitt elaborated.

The two juveniles and one adult remained arrested Friday and are expected to be arraigned Monday in their respective juvenile and district courts.

Anyone with information in these cases is encouraged to contact the Kentwood Police Department at 616.698.6580 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.

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