KENT COUNTY, Mich. — The search continues Thursday night for two suspects involved in a multi-county crime spree.
The crimes involved a break-in at a Muskegon County dispensary and a police chase through two counties.
Just hours before the chase along the lakeshore, the car involved was one of several stolen from a dealership in Algoma Township. The owner said he's glad police worked as fast as they did, while the sheriff is concerned that these kinds of crimes becoming more and more common.
Five vehicles were stolen from Graff Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Rockford in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
"I get here, I see the door broken into, and I notice my front line of vehicles are all gone," said owner Lon Keely, "so a lot of anger was my first feeling."
Keely said a group of four or five people smashed their way inside, found where the keys were kept, stole cash, and then stole cars outside.
"Luckily no customer information was taken, and none of our computers were touched," Keely said. "This was just an attempt to steal vehicles."
"Subsequent to stealing the cars, one of the vehicles was involved in a breaking and entering in Muskegon," explained Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young. "A pursuit ensued, and now there's a juvenile in custody."
As for the other cars, one was found in Kentwood, two were recovered in Grand Rapids, and the other was found running but abandoned in the parking lot of Northview High School in Plainfield Township.
"Who knows why people do the things that they do," Keely said. "It is what it is."
The Kent County Sheriff's Office said they believe at least three individuals are involved in the break-in, as the disturbing increase of stolen vehicles continues.
"The age groups of kids we often find in some of these, and not all of them, are underage," said Sheriff LaJoye-Young. "And if you're stealing cars at 14, you likely have no idea how to drive a car."
The Sheriff also said there isn't just one specific group doing these crimes, but instead a series of people working together in West Michigan that try to replicate the crimes they're seeing.
"That's why it's important to show them that these patterns of events are brought to a conclusion with significant charges," said LaJoye-Young.
She also said that's what makes these types of crimes that much more serious, and dangerous.
"Obviously the car theft, that's a loss to somebody who has a property investment in that car which is significant all by itself," said LaJoye-Young, "but what I fear more, is what's being done with these vehicles after they're being stolen."
The KCSO says they're continuing to dedicate the resources of the detective bureau and other area law enforcement task force to find those perpetrating these crimes. Stealing vehicles is a property crime. However, in many instances, they explain that these vehicles are used to commit homicides, shootings, armed robberies, burglaries of gun stores, and other dangerous crimes.
For Lon Keely, he's glad that all of his cars were recovered, and only one is beyond repair.
"It's tough, it's very tough, because vehicles can't be replaced," Keely said. "The inventory isn't there for me to re-stock them these days."
Keely added that because of the technology put in newer model vehicles, criminals have had to change the way they steal cars.
"They have to be more brazen and come in and breach the actual store," Keely said. "And as in most crimes, if somebody wants to commit it, they're going to find a way to get it done."
But above all, Keely said he's just grateful that none of his staff were in the store at the time of the break-in.
"Cars, cash, and keys, that stuff can all be replaced," Keely said, "it's customer data and people that are the hard things to replace so luckily we don't have to worry about that."
The Kent County Sheriff's Office is asking that people stay vigilant and report anything they might see by calling the KCSO at 616-632-6125, or call Silent Observer at 616-774-2345 to report information safely and anonymously.
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