Kent Co. deputies seek booze bandit after $20K+ in thefts

Kent County Sheriff's Department, liquor theft
Surveillance photos provided by the Kent County Sheriff's Department show a man suspected of stealing liquor. (Nov. 16, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s not your average shoplifting case.

Investigators with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department say a thief or thieves have managed to steal between $20,000 and $30,000 in top-and mid-shelf liquor bottles from area stores since July.

“This is someone who’s had a rather significant run over the last several months,” said Sgt. Joel Roon.

Deputies released pictures of a possible suspect, taken from store surveillance video. In two of the images, he’s wearing a hat bearing the Chicago Bulls logo. In the third, his hat says “Chicago.”

Authorities say he may be working with others.

Investigators are not releasing the name of the stores that have been targeted, but say they are larger grocery and big box-style retailers. The locations include Cascade Township, Cedar Springs, Rockford and other areas of Kent County.

It appears the suspect walks down the liquor aisle, sometimes picking up several bottles, or just swiping one.

“We know that they’ve loaded several of these bottles into a bag and then attempted to exit the store with a bag full of liquor. We also know that they’ve taken a single bottle at a time,” elaborated Roon.

So far, the thief has managed to escape by somehow bypassing security measures.

“We are seeing some attempts to defeat the security devices on these liquor bottles. Some (are) successful, some (are) not,” Roon said. “But it doesn’t necessarily stop them from walking out the door with it. Even if a security device is effective and an alarm goes off, it may not stop one of these individuals from walking out anyway.”

Investigators are asking the public to keep an eye out for anything suspicious in or around stores, such as an individual putting liquor bottles in a bag before they get to the checkout.

Detectives have run into roadblocks during their investigation. So far, detectives haven’t received any tips as to where the liquor is going.

“We’ve seen a number of vehicles used in these cases, so we’re unable to pinpoint what they’re driving. We’ve seen middle to larger size SUVs, one believed to be gold in color, really an unknown make. So we don’t have a great vehicle description at this point,” Roon said.

There’s also evidence the suspect may be covering up the license plate of the getaway vehicle being used.

“They aren’t necessarily doing anything magical,” Roon said. “We’ve seen this type of theft before, we’ve seen this method before. There have been some circumstances that have gone in their favor to keep them at large for this long. “

Anyone with information is asked to call the Kent County Sheriff’s Department at 616.632.6100 or Silent Observer at 616.774.2345.