From left, Grosse Pointe City and Park Public Safety Director Stephen Poloni, City Mayor Christopher Boettcher, City Detective Lt. John Alcorn, City Detective Sgt. Joe Adams and Park Detective Jeremy Pittman take part in a public safety awards ceremony March 18 at the Neighborhood Club in Grosse Pointe City.

From left, Grosse Pointe City and Park Public Safety Director Stephen Poloni, City Mayor Christopher Boettcher, City Detective Lt. John Alcorn, City Detective Sgt. Joe Adams and Park Detective Jeremy Pittman take part in a public safety awards ceremony March 18 at the Neighborhood Club in Grosse Pointe City.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

Detectives honored for work on multi-city case

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published April 2, 2019

GROSSE POINTE CITY/GROSSE POINTE PARK — Different law enforcement agencies always seem to be at odds with each other on television cop shows, but in reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

It was cooperation among multiple law enforcement agencies, combined with old-fashioned detective work and a bit of luck, that enabled police from Grosse Pointe Park and City to track down and arrest a pair of suspects who’d been involved in home invasions in their communities. During an awards ceremony March 18 at the Neighborhood Club in the City, Stephen Poloni, public safety director for Grosse Pointe City and Park, presented the City’s Detective Lt. John Alcorn and Detective Sgt. Joe Adams, as well as Park Detective Jeremy Pittman, with departmental citations for their roles in apprehending the individuals responsible for home invasions Oct. 23, 2018, on Lincoln Road in Grosse Pointe City and on Kensington Road in Grosse Pointe Park.

“We work with surrounding departments on a daily basis,” Pittman said in an email interview. “Cooperation amongst law enforcement agencies is essential. We obviously work closely with Grosse Pointe City as well as the other Grosse Pointes, but we have officers from Detroit and Harper Woods in our office with us every day, as they are assigned to the ACTION auto theft unit. Crime knows no jurisdictional boundaries, so sharing information and resources is very helpful.”

On March 15 and March 21, respectively, the two suspects, a 20-year-old Detroit man and a 23-year-old Detroit man, pleaded guilty in 3rd Circuit Court to one count of second-degree home invasion, a potential 15-year felony. Both men had confessed their involvement in the home invasions in the Pointes to Pittman, and both accepted plea deals, Adams said. Adams said Pittman “did a fantastic job” and used his “years of experience” to get both suspects to admit to committing these crimes.

A critical lead came from an anonymous witness in Grosse Pointe Park, who told police he saw a 2018 gray Dodge Charger parked near the crime scene. The witness, who was working at a home across the street, told police that he saw one of the suspects back into the driveway of the victims’ home, after which he saw one of the suspects put a television in the trunk and close it before the suspects left, heading north on Kensington and then west on Mack Avenue. The witness was able to provide police with the Charger’s license plate number.

“If it wasn’t for this witness, we probably never would have solved this case,” Adams said.

Although the suspects didn’t own the Charger, Pittman said that the vehicle lead paved the way for the rest of the investigation.

“We would have had a much harder time solving this case without a citizen who was brave enough to get involved and share the information they had because it looked suspicious,” Pittman said. “We need the community to work together with us to keep themselves, their neighbors and business in the area safe. If something ‘doesn’t look right,’ it never hurts to call us and pass along what you saw or heard. Most of the time, your instincts will be right.”

The two defendants are said to have committed four home invasions in Dearborn Oct. 25. A gray Dodge Charger, like the one linked to the cases in the Pointes, was spotted and a be-on-the-lookout alert was sent out with a photo of the vehicle and its license plate number.

Grosse Pointe Woods Sgt. Matthew Mujia was off duty and driving on Eight Mile Road near Livernois Road after a training session in Novi the afternoon of Oct. 25, when, by chance, he noticed that the vehicle directly in front of him was the Charger that police were looking for. He called Adams’ cellphone. Adams and Alcorn had also been attending training and were on Eight Mile Road around the same time. Mujia discretely kept track of the suspects’ vehicle until Alcorn and Adams picked up the trail around Dequindre Road. Mujia did “a great job,” Adams said. “He did an excellent job not being made.”

The Charger pulled into an apartment complex on Dequindre, followed by a blue Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Dearborn and Troy police were called, and they set up surveillance; Dearborn police put a tracker on the Charger. By Oct. 26, police were able to identify one of the suspects, and the next day, they identified the other suspect. Both men were seen entering local pawnshops, where police said they were selling stolen items.

During their crime spree, Adams said, one of the suspects was on an electronic tether for allegedly operating a chop shop, but he was able to block the tether’s signal with aluminum foil.

“His tether went blank during each period of each incident,” Adams said.

In the Lincoln home invasion, the suspects are said to have stolen more than $10,000 worth of valuables, including coins and personalized jewelry, such as a class ring.

Because of its distinctive nature, “We were able to recover the jewelry with our case,” Adams said.

Pittman said that they weren’t able to locate the items stolen from the Park home. In the Kensington home invasion, police said the suspects took an estimated $2,900 worth of items, including flat screen televisions, a Nikon D3400 camera, video game equipment and $1,500 in cash.

“The specific items taken were not easily traceable and probably ended up in an illegal fencing operation, where they are intentionally hidden from police detection,” Pittman said. “As far as what citizens can do, document your valuable property by recording the serial numbers, model numbers and date of purchase. If serial numbers don’t exist (i.e., jewelry), photograph the items. We can easily compare to items in pawnshop databases with photos. Sgt. Adams did a great job with this process in the City case and was able to recover very valuable jewelry that had been stolen and pawned.”

After the suspects were arrested, phone conversations from jail between the suspects and people on the outside led police to an impounded van that yielded additional evidence against both men.

“The biggest challenges in this case was just pulling together pieces of evidence from so many different sources,” Pittman said. “We did not have a video of the crime or any other overwhelming evidence to pursue. We had to piece together evidence from several different law enforcement agencies, stretching from Bloomfield Hills to Dearborn, and just logistically, it was difficult to build the case that way. That being said, every officer involved did a great job and the coordinated effort was rewarding to be a part of.”

Adams said the two defendants are believed to be responsible for about eight home invasions last fall in metro Detroit, along with larcenies from vehicles in Oakland County. Both men are said to have been engaged in criminal activity before the 2018 crimes as well. It wasn’t known at press time whether they might be facing additional charges.

“This is an example of some of the cooperation we’ve talked about … and working together on a day-to-day basis,” Poloni said. “This was a very lengthy case. It was a lot of hard work and surveillance.”