Investigators work multiple auto dealership burglaries

Kent County

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — When a gang of thieves targeted Kent County auto dealerships over the weekend, it appears they tried to make it one-stop shopping.

Two of the dealerships, Tony Betten & Sons Ford and Fox Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram are located across from each other on Plainfield Avenue.

One suspects is in custody.

Kentwood police tell News 8 the suspect was found with keys to a vehicle taken from a dealership in their city.

Not much more is known about the suspect other than he was one cog in a big wheel.

“It’s multiple subjects. One group of subjects will break into the dealership, steal the keys.” Kent County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Joy Matthews said.

Another group returns later to steal the vehicles.

A total of three dealerships along Plainfield Avenue, including Betten Ford and Fox Chrysler, were hit overnight between Friday and Saturday.

Three dealerships along 28th Street were hit — two in Grand Rapids and one in Kentwood.

None of the dealerships would speak on camera, but management at Tony Betten Ford told News 8 they are still checking their inventories to figure out exactly how many vehicles were stolen.

“We have been able to recover multiple vehicles, at least six to date,” Matthews said. “One thing that we are working with the dealerships on is just how to increase their safety measures. Just how to prohibit this from happening again.”

These type of brazen burglaries are nothing new for law enforcement.

Similar crimes have happened around the country.

But Mathews says they believe the suspects are local.

“I definitely think it could be a copy cat. I think this is something that’s been happening over the years,” Matthews said. “I don’t think they necessarily have a plan to do something with the vehicles. From everything that we have found, they just use the vehicles to commit additional crimes.”

A neighbor noticed a door at one of the dealership had been busted open.

Matthews says despite a recent drain on resources, road patrol has not been cut back.

But they could still use some extra eyes and ears.

“During this time, while our resources are being directed toward other things. COVID(-19) related or the protest, riot related, we do ask our residents if you see something out of the ordinary to let us know,” Matthews said.

Detectives from the Combined Auto Theft Team, which include investigators from Kentwood, Grand Rapids, Wyoming and the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, are also involved in the cases.

If you know anything, contact the Kent County Sheriff’s Department at 616.632.6100 or Silent Observer 616.774.2345.

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