A rash of gun store burglaries around Grand Rapids has law enforcement officials surmising that the crimes are linked.
Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinksky said Wednesday that evidence points to a group of teenagers who burglarized Grand Rapids Barracks 616 and Grandville Cabela’s, and attempted to steal firearms from Ace Hardware and Bachelder Master Gunmakers, MLive reported.
“To state the obvious, the last thing we want is to put additional illegal guns on the street,” Rahinsky said. “We’ve made it a public health initiative to address the gun issue, the gun violence issue, and the number of shooting victims … It’s not something we’re going to tolerate as a law enforcement agency or as a community. We won’t sit by and wait for tragedies to happen.”
Four teenagers — ages 13, 14, 15, and 16 — were arrested Sept. 17 in connection to gun thefts from Cabela’s in Grandville, in which 13 handguns were taken from the shop. Officers then arrested three more juveniles and at least one adult who also had ties to the crimes.
Despite the arrests, the break-ins weren’t done yet, as three more gun stores were invaded on Sept. 23. The thieves were not able to get away with firearms from Rylee’s Ace Hardware or Bachelder Master Gunmakers, but stole another 20 handguns from Barracks 616 in Cascade Township.
The Grand Rapids Police Department is investigating the crimes, along with Kent County Sheriff’s Office, Grandville Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Only five of the 33 stolen guns have been recovered, WOOD TV reported, and the ATF has offered a reward on information regarding the 28 guns that remain in circulation on the streets.
“It’s not enthusiasts or collectors that are breaking into gun stores and stealing firearms,” said Thomas Chittum, special agent in charge of the Grand Rapids ATF field office. “These are destined for the black market and will be used in violent crimes.”
The $2,500 ATF reward is being matched by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, bringing the total to $5,000. Anyone with information regarding the stolen guns is asked to call 1.800.ATF.GUNS (4867).