Frustration grows as dealer theft exceeds 50 vehicles

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The number of vehicles stolen from car dealerships all over West Michigan has hit the half-century mark.

A number of dealerships have been hit more than once, including Infiniti of Grand Rapids on Breton Road south of 28th Street. But there, the thieves walked away empty-handed the second time around.

On June 8, masked bandits could be seen on the dealership’s security cameras making their way across the parking lot and into the showroom. Minutes later, a new crossover busted through a back service door and rushed down the road, followed by a second stolen vehicle.

It was a costly night for the dealership.

“From a building standpoint, we’re just over $20,000. From a vehicle standpoint, we’re just over $75,000,” Craig Ressell, executive manager of Infiniti of Grand Rapids, said.

Burglars returned June 19.

“We had them for about 20 minutes. They had crowbars in hand and (were) looking to get inside the key boxes,” Ressell said.

The burglars managed to pry away the door on one of the exterior boxes but by then, the dealership had taken away the key to their past success.

“We’re taking every key off premises at night,” Ressell said. “Of all the cars stolen, there’s not been any stolen without a key present. So we just kind of tightened up our process there.”

It’s been a frustrating month for both dealers and detectives. In June alone, more than 50 vehicles were taken throughout Kent and Ottawa counties. And the roving gang of burglars didn’t just target West Michigan: Dealerships in Mecosta and Isabella counties were hit, too.

The suspects have a history of running other drivers off the road and causing crashes. In one case, a teen was killed in a crash involving one of the stolen vehicles.

Many of the vehicles are found dumped and heavily damaged. When they’re still driveable, they’re often used by the same group for after-hours smash-and-grabs, according to police.

Police have made some arrests but the gangs are large, organized and apparently tough to stop.

“Very frustrating,” Ressell said.