KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s stunning enough to have your car stolen out of your own driveway once. It happened to a Kentwood couple twice in just weeks.
“It’s almost embarrassing,” Randi Alberich said. “You just feel completely violated. You feel completely unsafe.”
On Oct. 14, in the middle of the night at her southeast Kentwood home, Alberich and her husband, Travis, woke up to a knock at the door. It was an East Kentwood police officer, asking if they owned a 2020 limited edition Jeep Grand Cherokee. They bought it six months prior for $30,000.
“We looked in our driveway and realized it was not there,” Alberich recalled.
They soon learned that whoever stole the vehicle crashed it into a tree in East Grand Rapids. It was completely ruined, with its hood bent sharply upward and the bumper destroyed.
They still had another car: Alberich’s beloved 2016 Chevy Tahoe, which she bought four years ago for $42,000. She remembers it being in “immaculate” condition.
“I know it’s material, it’s just a vehicle, but my daughter knows nothing but this vehicle,” Alberich said. “She has a name for it. She loves it. She wants to know where it’s at, and it’s not here.”
About three weeks to the day her Jeep was stolen, another police officer knocked on her door late at night. Alberich looked outside her window and saw her driveway, once again, completely empty. She remembers feeling déjà vu as she walked down the stairs.
“The whole walk down the steps to get to the front door, it was just completely surreal,” she said.
Alberich said the officer told her that several other vehicles within a few miles of her house were stolen and recovered, but her Tahoe was still missing.
“I’m not even sure if we responded to him at that point,” Alberich recalled. “My husband and I were just looking at each other in complete shock.”
Several items she left inside the Tahoe were thrown out the window and scattered onto a nearby street. Alberich found her wallet in the middle of the road. She also found three car seats, her coat, her daughter’s backpack, coat and boots.
One of their most treasured and irreplaceable possessions was also tossed in the middle of the road: a necklace belonging to their son who passed away four years ago.
“We lost him,” Alberich said. “That was my main concern is we lost pretty much the only thing we really have material-wise to memorialize our son.”
With the Jeep wrecked, the Tahoe still missing and time running out on their loaner car, they had no vehicle at all at one point.
“We woke up Monday morning and we’re not even able to drive our daughter to school,” Alberich said.
Insurance eventually gave them $25,000 for the wrecked Jeep, which they used to buy a used truck. They finally got their Tahoe back this Saturday. But after thieves put 2,000 miles on it in just weeks, the vehicle was something they didn’t recognize.
“Every engine light is on,” Alberich said. “We’re assuming the frame is bent. Those two tires on that side, they’re completely dented and damaged. With the amount of miles they put on it, they just beat it into the ground.”
It doesn’t even drive at this point: It’s essentially ruined mechanically. The carpeting, windshield wipers and Chevy emblems are all ripped off. The steering wheel is stuck at a 90-degree angle.
Alberich also found gloves, masks and car cleaner left behind by the thieves.
“They actually left their backpacks in here with their homework in it, so we have their names,” she said.
She expects the vehicle to be totaled, but she doesn’t even want it at this point.
“I don’t really even want to be near it,” Alberich said. “I really don’t even want it in my driveway at this point. It’s just a lot of reminder of what we went through the past five weeks.”
Alberich said the Jeep was stolen because the keys were left inside overnight. She explained that her husband had just gone through surgery and she took an Uber home, so they didn’t remember to go back out to the driveway to get the keys.
The thieves successfully took the Tahoe because a spare key was left inside the Jeep, Alberich said.
Alberich is far from the only victim. The Kent County Sheriff’s Office says hundreds of vehicles have been stolen this year, approaching last year’s total of 360 thefts.
Law enforcement confirmed they have stolen vehicle reports for both of Alberich’s cases. Police have not announced any arrests, but Alberich has been told the suspects are believed to be a group of teenagers.
“We want whoever is terrorizing our neighborhood to be found and prosecuted, right?” she said. “Then you hear they’re 14, 15-year-old kids. Then you want to pray for them. I want them to find a better way.”
Alberich said she plans to “go to the extreme” with extra security measures on her home and vehicles. She feels her family’s sense of security and safety has been stripped away.
“A lot of sleepless nights,” she said. “Even last night, I was up for three or four hours. Just woke up, I just watched the windows. It changes your behaviors 100%.”
“You look outside and you’re expecting to see a stolen vehicle,” she continued. “It’s just not normal.”
Anyone with information is asked to call Kentwood police at 616.698.6580 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.