ALPINE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A sheet of plywood covered the front door of the Boost Mobile store along Alpine Avenue north of 4 Mile Road Thursday.
It’s a familiar sight in Grand Rapids and Kent County this summer as gangs of juvenile burglars continue to hit everything from cellphone stores to auto dealerships.
“We are seeing crimes of opportunity, if you will,” Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young said later Thursday.
Two juveniles and an adult were arrested about 6:30 a.m. Thursday following three break-ins in Alpine Township, just north of Grand Rapids. The first was at the RightWay Auto Sales used car dealership at Alpine Avenue and Lamoreaux Drive NW. Next came the cellphone store.
Deputies ultimately caught the suspects just a few doors down in the Rise Smoke shop.
“We were called by somebody who noticed somebody in the building and we were able to put the suspects in custody,” LaJoye-Young said.
Glass doors were broken out at all three businesses.
Charges were issued against two of the suspects, 17-year-olds Ricky Carpentier and Dalen Patterson, Friday. The sheriff’s office said Carpentier was accused of conducting criminal enterprises and Patterson faces three counts of breaking and entering.
Car dealerships have been frequent targets of break-ins this summer, with nearly 70 vehicles taken in the city Grand Rapids alone. Lots along the 28th Street corridor are especially vulnerable.
The suspects are mostly teens. Investigators say they are stealing dealership cars for two reasons: to use in other breaks-ins like the ones along Alpine Thursday morning and simply for joyrides.
“Yeah, there’s a lot of belief that these incidents are tied to each other,” LaJoye-Young said. “We are working very hard with area detectives to make sure that we’re connecting these cases if they can be. We’re trying to bring cases on those that are involved.”
She said her investigators have had some success in reducing the number of dealership break-ins in the out-county area. Many dealers are now taking the keys to their inventory home with them.
But the crimes continue.
“Generally speaking, they’re looking for easier targets and trying to get whatever they can from that target and do whatever they can with the proceeds,” the sheriff said.
In other words, they’re not criminal masterminds. So why are they so difficult to stop? The sheriff said the sheer volume of cases remains a challenge.
“Officer have to be very methodical about putting evidence together and having probable cause to get a warrant and make the arrest. Often, we will need cooperation to make that happen,” she said. “They’re happening so often. And it’s not as if we’re not resolving crimes, because we absolutely are. And we have held people responsible for these crimes, but it takes time.”
Authorities were also called to the Paris Motors on Division Avenue north of 44th Street SW in Wyoming around 1:30 a.m. Thursday after an alarm went off. Surveillance video sent to News 8 shows an SUV back through a garage door. A number of people then jumped out of the SUV and ran inside the dealership. Police say the suspects were not able to steal anything.
Shortly after that break-in, police in Wyoming responded to an incident at an auto store near 36th Street and Byron Center Avenue. Investigators believe both incidents in Wyoming on Thursday were connected to another incident that happened Tuesday near 28th Street and Buchanan Avenue where three cars were stolen. Surveillance photos show people and a vehicle that investigators believe was involved in both crimes.
Anyone with information on the crimes in Wyoming can contact police at 616.530.7300 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.
Also on Thursday, there was also a dealership break-in in Grandville, authorities. The Kent County Sheriff’s Department says it can’t confirm the Grandville and Wyoming break-ins were connected, but says investigators are looking into it.
The Combined Auto Theft Team, a multijurisdictional task force that works out of the Grand Rapids Police Department, declined to comment to News 8 Thursday about ongoing investigations.