ADA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — One minute, the 2015 Taurus sat in the driveway of the Ada Township home. The next minute, it was gone. 

“Somebody was apparently walking around the neighborhood testing cars and seeing if there were any unlocked,” Vicki Gilchrist said.

The 8-year-old car driven by Gilchrist’s husband was unlocked.

The key fob was in the console.

Four days later, Gilchrist was told the stolen Taurus was involved in a drive-by homicide in Grand Rapids.

The Grand Rapids Police Department won’t confirm that information. But about that same time, two men were shot on Batchawana Street SE near 28th Street.

One died.

Gilchrist learned firsthand what police have been saying since the disturbing trend of car thefts by teens and young adults began in 2020.

“This is not just neighborhood kids messing around stealing change. This is a group of people that used the car later in the week for a drive-by shooting and homicide,” Gilchrist said.

And the problem continues.

Early Tuesday morning a homeowner on South Park Drive in Gaines Township saw suspects checking car doors and called 911.

Deputies arrived and the suspects took off, until they hit a set of spike strips put out by deputies.

The suspect vehicle continued until the driver lost control on Kalamazoo Avenue near 52nd Street.

One suspect, an 18-year-old, was caught. Another got away.

Among the stolen items found inside the vehicle, which was taken from Plainfield Township on May 3, were two pistols.

One was taken from a vehicle burglarized minutes before on South Park Drive.

“If we wouldn’t have intercepted that, that’s how those guns then end up on the street. Then they are involved in shootings and homicides. And that’s what we see,” Kent County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Eric Brunner said.

Just 24 hours earlier in Byron Township, neighbors on Marshwood Court saw suspects breaking into vehicles.

There was another chase. Deputies caught a 15-year-old, a 16-year-old and two 17-year-olds in that case.

The age of the suspects is not the only common factors in vehicle thefts, which are up 25% in Kent County alone since 2020.

They’re happening everywhere and to just about every kind of vehicle. While the two car brands have grabbed the headlines, less than one-third were Kia or Hyundai vehicles.

And if you want to find out where the thefts are concentrated, throw a dart: Grand Rapids, Ada, Byron Center, Gaines, Rockford, there’s not a neighborhood immune from the crimes. 

“The vast majority of cars are just regular, run-of-the-mill cars. But unfortunately, folks are leaving their keys behind and that’s the common things we’re seeing,” Brunner said.

That was the case with Vicki Gilchrist husband’s car.

“He had some key issues, so he left it in the car and yes. Absolutely, it’s a lesson learned,” Gilchrist said. “But there’s a separate issue, which is there are people walking around our neighborhood at night that are looking to steal cars.”