Four arrested in thievery ring

Published 8:21 pm Monday, January 10, 2011

handcuffsPolice in Edwardsburg and Ontwa Township seemed to have ended the year on a rather triumphant note after announcing over the weekend an investigation into more than 50 combined vehicle and home invasions in three months led them to four arrests and possibly more to follow.

“I think there’s probably a couple more,” Edwardsburg Police Chief Kenneth Wray said Tuesday. “But right now I know these four were involved.”

Three adults and one juvenile were arrested after a search warrant was executed for one suspected residence Dec. 30. Another residence was searched Dec. 31. Between the two more than $6,000 in stolen property is estimated to have been found.

Wray said further arrests could be made of individuals suspected of transporting the stolen property.

The names of those individuals arrested are being withheld pending arraignment.

Police in the Village of Edwardsburg and in Ontwa Township saw a surge in both home invasions and vehicle larcenies over the past three months.

Wray estimated a total of 32 thefts from vehicles and 29 residential burglaries.

Property recovered included power tools, hand tools and wrenches, chainsaws and leaf blowers. Wray said the investigation is now leading to other crimes which may have taken place in Cass County and Indiana.

He said he he couldn’t say the individuals in custody were responsible for all of the thefts reported.

Just last week, Wray told the Argus that officers did not have any leads in the rash of break-ins and were asking for the public’s help.

But an extensive investigation has finally paid off, he said, and he credited a tip received and a specialized computer and crime-mapping program for the break in the case.

Through a federal grant, Wray’s department was able to acquire specialized crime mapping software, CORE Technologies based in Lansing, that also provides a link between his department and other law enforcement agencies “linked” into the program.

Several area agencies are linked into the program including law enforcement agencies in Buchanan, St. Joseph and Berrien County. Cass County and Niles are not yet a part of the program.

“What it does is draw from all of our reports,” Wray said. The program pulls information, addresses and details of specific events which help police get a better visual on where crimes are occurring and what is being reported by other participating agencies.

In the case of the three-month investigation Wray and his officers had been working on, “we knew (the incidents) were happening around Eagle Lake, of course, and we knew they were happening in the south end of the county.”

Using that information from the software, Wray said, officers were out working those areas heavily and talking to the public, which led to a tip, which confirmed police suspicions and led to the bust.

Wray hopes the program will be adopted across the state line into areas like Elkhart and South Bend as well.

“There’s a lot of influx between the two states,” he said.

Police are still looking for any information the public may have into criminal activity in the area and are urging anyone with information to contact them immediately.