Criminals hit 3 Kent Co. cellphone stores in a day

Kent County

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Authorities are investigating a third cellphone store robbery in Kent County within a day.

The most recent crime happened Wednesday afternoon at a T-Mobile store located at 5301 S. Division Ave. north of 54th Street in Wyoming. 

Investigators from the Wyoming Department of Public Safety and Kent County Sheriff’s Office believe the suspects are thieves who targeted another Wyoming store Tuesday evening and a Cascade Township business early Wednesday morning.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office was alerted to the break-in at the Verizon store near the intersection of 28th Street SE and Kraft Avenue SE after an alarm went off around 2:40 a.m.

When they arrived on scene, deputies found shattered glass near the entrance of the store. It’s unclear if the suspect or suspects were able to get away with anything.

Around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, three men robbed the T-Mobile located at 705 28th St. SW near US-131 in Wyoming. 

Witnesses say when an employee approached and tried to grab a phone from one of the robbers, the robber threatened to have him shot. As in the other cases, no gun was seen, but a robber implied he had one.

Investigators said the three incidents are likely connected to the Nov. 12 robbery of a Best Buy at 4830 Wilson Ave. SW near RiverTown Crossings Mall in Wyoming.

In most cases, the suspects are going for the high-end phones. Cellphone providers share a database of stolen phones, allowing them to be disabled, so in theory, the stolen phones should be of no value to crooks. But “it isn’t quite that simple,” Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young said.

“There are things they can do with the cellphones to make them operational after they’ve been shut down. We do see that happening,” she added. “But also, they sell them on eBay or Craigslist or any other forum to an unwitting person who purchases a cellphone and can’t use it.”

The four recent cases mark the latest in a string of cellphone store robberies across West Michigan. Earlier this month, Grand Rapids police said five people were connected to a string of cellphone thefts in Berrien, Kent and Ottawa counties. Only two of those suspects were arrested. In most cases, the suspects used a brick to break into the places they targeted.

Investigators want to catch the thieves in the recent cases before anyone gets hurt. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Kent County Sheriff’s Department at 616.632.6100, Wyoming police at 616.530.7300 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.

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