Sheriffs cooperatingPublished 9:16pm Thursday, January 5, 2012
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The St. Joseph County Police Department, sheriffs Michael Grzegorek, Joseph Underwood of Cass County and Paul Bailey of Berrien County announced at a news conference Thursday their intentions to formalize cooperation between their agencies on criminal investigations.
Criminals do not limit themselves to geographical boundaries, so neither will these three police agencies. With this announcement, these three sheriffs continue to seek the benefits of inter-agency cooperation — now across state lines.
The decision to formalize this relationship began with a series of burglaries that spanned Indiana and Michigan.
Beginning around September, law enforcement began to notice a pattern of “smash-and-grab” burglaries not confined to any one specific area.
Some occurred in South Bend and Mishawaka, Ind., and some in Niles Township, Bertrand Township and Niles.
“We began to see the pattern based upon shared posts on our law-enforcement only computer network called Crime Net,” Bailey said.
Bailey put together a special investigative unit (SIU) Nov. 11 to solve business break-ins in the Niles Township Business District (South 11th Street/M-51).
The three sheriffs are working on improving radio communications so officers working the road from each of their agencies can keep in contact with each other across the border.
St. Joseph County Police Department received a burglary alarm Nov. 22 from the Pay-and-Pakit store on SR 933 near the state line.
Officers arrived shortly after the alarm went out and identified a suspicious vehicle.
Ultimately, the two passengers fled from the car and escaped.
While this unfolded, the special investigation unit of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office was conducting surveillance on a location in Michigan.
Michigan State Police and Niles police were assisting the Berrien County unit that evening.
Those officers, in conjunction with St. Joseph County Police, set up a perimeter to attempt to capture the two fleeing suspects.
Lt. James Zehm, along with Lt. Rick Biggart and canine handlers Deputy Marc Hopkins and Deputy Jason Haskins from the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office were able to locate one suspect, Thomas Vansandt, as he fled on foot.
Inside the suspect’s vehicle was stolen property taken in two Niles Township business burglaries.
Through this investigation, two suspects have been arrested. Suspects confessed to 11 burglaries in Berrien County and approximately 20 burglaries in St. Joseph County, Ind.
n Thomas Martin Vansandt, 26, of South Bend, was charged in Berrien County with two counts of breaking and entering (pleaded guilty Dec. 9). He is currently on parole for a previous breaking and entering (safe job in Berrien County).
n Jason Allen Cahoon, 26, of South Bend, is currently held in St. Joseph County, Ind., awaiting extradition back to Berrien County to answer to two breaking and entering counts.
Since this SIU formed Nov. 11, “We have developed a great working relationship with agencies across the state line,” Bailey said.