GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Authorities are investigating a string of break-ins around metro Grand Rapids early Friday, with thieves targeting liquor stores for e-cigarettes and booze.
Wonderland Party Store owner Nin Singh said Walker police called him around 1:45 a.m. to tell him his liquor store on Leonard Street NW near Remembrance Road NW had been hit. He said the crooks, five of them, broke in using a rock and took vapes and Patron tequila.
“They made a mess,” Singh told News 8. “Took my trash can, emptied that out, put vapes in it. Styrofoam coolers over there, I had two or three of those. I had some inventory of Breezes — just boxed ’em up and took ‘me ’em all along.”
He said they did not get any cash because he doesn’t keep any in the store overnight.
The Kentwood Police Department said it responded to three break-ins between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m.: one at a gas station on 52nd Street, one at a party store on 44th Street and one at a business on 29th Street. Kentwood police said the thieves made off with vape pens, tobacco products and other items.
Surveillance video from inside the Tiny Giant Party Store on 44th near Eastern Avenue shows six people go behind the counter around 3:20 a.m. They threw the cash drawer on the floor to break it open and filled bags with merchandise. They were in and out in less than two minutes.
Around 4 a.m., the Kent County Sheriff’s Office said, a stolen car drove through the front doors of the Family Fare gas station at the intersection of Clyde Park Avenue SW and 76th Street SW in Byron Township.
Six suspects got out of the car and stole cigarettes from the gas station, the sheriff’s office said.
Employees said the gas station was closed and no workers were inside when it happened.
The sheriff’s office advised residents not to leave their keys and valuables in their cars because stolen vehicles are being used in crimes throughout Kent County.
The owner of D. Schuler’s Fine Wines and Spirits on 44th Street west of Byron Center Avenue in Wyoming said the store alarm sounded at 4:30 a.m. Jane Vander Laan said the thieves used the flower pots out front to break the glass door and windows.
“There was dirt all over and broken glass everywhere in the store,” she said.
She said six people wearing hoods and gloves smashed open both cash registers, stole “a lot” of tequila, Hennessy cognac, Tito’s vodka and her entire stock of Breeze vapes.
“They knew what they wanted to steal but they didn’t bring any containers so they took all of our trash cans and took the bags out and put the product they were stealing in our trash cans,” Vander Laan said. “And one of our flower pots. They took the plant out and used the flower pot to transport what they were stealing.”
She’s sure they cased the place.
“I think they were already in the store because they knew directly where they were going. It’s not like they walked in and went, ‘OK, where is everything,'” Vander Laan said. “It was a pretty violent, purposeful attack. It’s not like they came in and didn’t have a plan. They had a plan. They knew exactly who was going to do what and they did it. I think it was planned out as much as people like this plan anything out. So that was alarming.”
Vander Laan said even though the cash registers at the counter were destroyed, she was able to open Friday because she had a spare. She said she was relieved that it happened at night when none of her employees were around. The merchandise, she said, can be replaced.
“Everyone was safe and we can recover from this,” Vander Laan, who has owned D. Schuler’s since 2010, said. “But it does kind of shake you up. I’m kind of shook. I don’t think I’ll sleep quite as soundly tonight.”
In Grand Rapids, police said a marijuana business on Plainfield Avenue and another on Michigan Street were broken into early Friday. Later in the day, there was plywood over a window at Noxx Cannabis on Plainfield north of Leonard Street.
Kent County Undersheriff Chuck DeWitt described the thieves as “very brazen” with “no fear.” The sheriff’s office said it is working with police in the cities where the break-ins happened to investigate. Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff’s office at 616.632.6125 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345. Kentwood police are taking tips at 616.656.6604.
Singh, the owner of Wonderland, had a message for the thieves:
“Get a job. Don’t do this, man. Risky. You’re going to get caught eventually.”
Vander Laan, from D. Schuler’s, expressed concern for them.
“I don’t think they understand that when you commit a major felony like they have done that they’re going to go away for a while,” she said. “Somebody’s heart’s going to be broken that they took these actions. There’s going to be some mother, some grandmother, some father somewhere that is despondent over the choices their children have made. And I think as a community we need to care about that because it’s not somebody else’s problem, it’s our problem.”