GRPD: Same group committed 60 break-ins

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids police say some of the more than 50 vehicles stolen from auto dealerships this year have later been used in drive-by shootings.

The Grand Rapids Police Department released an update Wednesday on the rash of break-ins in and around the city.

It said the same group of about 20 juveniles and several young adults have been responsible for about 60 burglaries at dealerships, auto repair shops and cellphone stores since the start of June.

Most of the crimes have happened along 28th Street and Leonard Street between 1 a.m. and 5 p.m. Investigators say members of the group steal the cars, then use them in smash-and-grabs.

“We have reason to believe, based on our investigations, that these stolen vehicles are also being used in other more serious crimes, including drive-by shootings,” GRPD Sgt. James Wojczynski said in a statement released by the department.

He did not specify where or when those shootings were, or whether anyone was injured in them.

Wojczynski said the burglars are “brazen” and “should be considered dangerous,” also referencing a deadly May crash involving one of the stolen cars.

Investigators have arrested several people, though the crimes have kept happening. Wojczynski said because most of those arrested are juveniles, prosecution can be “a challenge.”

“This is where the community can play a role in helping us prevent these crimes. We need residents to report any suspicious activity around these types of businesses by calling 911 immediately,” he said. “There is a certain level of responsibility that we all need to assume if we want to prevent and/or solve these crimes — we all need to do our part.”

Anyone with information about the crimes is asked to call GRPD at 616.456.3380 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.

Authorities and community outreach leaders held a press conference Tuesday morning to discuss the crimes and increase in violence this year, blaming it at least in part on the coronavirus shutting down programs aimed at keeping kids out of trouble. To help combat the problem, the city is working to raise $750,000 for to back the Cure Violence initiative, which uses disease control methods to prevent crime.