Jacked-up thefts hit SLT car lot

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:50 PM

The first employee arriving for work Monday morning at Draeger Motor Sales, 15015 Cleveland St., found a half-dozen cars sitting on the ground, minus their wheels, said Leverenz said, who is in charge of sales for the business.

“After a nice weekend, it’s kind of hard to come in and deal with that,” Leverenz said. “It’s upsetting.”

Thieves also removed lug bolts and a hubcap from three other cars, but the wheels remained on them.

“Whoever was taking the wheels must have got spooked,” Leverenz said.

Thieves targeted the used cars sometime between noon Sunday and 8 a.m. Monday, said Lt. Mark Bennett of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department.

There are no leads in the case, but a white minivan pulling a U-Haul trailer was observed going through the lot early Sunday afternoon, Bennett said. The detective said he did not know if there is any connection between the minivan and the thefts, but it is not uncommon for thieves to scout out a location in advance.

Three BMWs, a Chevrolet Monte Carlo, a Dodge Caravan that had just been sold and a silver Ford Explorer with new tires were targeted, Leverenz said.

Lug nuts were removed from a Jaguar and a Jeep, and a center cap was taken off a Pontiac Crossfire.

Replacing the wheels on the cars would cost about $20,000, said Larry Draeger, the owner of the dealership.

Leverenz said they have lights for the lot, but they are used more during the winter.

“You can’t afford to have the lights on all night long,” he said. “I guess we need to have one or two lights on at night.”

Leverenz said they did not have video surveillance.

There have been few problems in the 20 years the used car lot has been in business, Leverenz said, though he did call police a couple of weeks ago when he noticed CD changers missing from the trunks of a couple of cars. He also said people have over the years treated the car lot like a "junkyard" — occasionally taking center caps, floor mats and manuals.

Bennett said Draeger Motor Sales isn’t the only car lot in the area hit by thieves in recent days. Wheels were taken off two or three cars at Johnson Auto Sales near Fruitport, he said.

“In the Fruitport area, they had larceny from vehicles late last week,” Bennett said. “Muskegon also had some incidents with some similarities."

Anyone with information is asked to call the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department at 616-738-4001 or Silent Observer at 877-88-SILENT.

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