Police nab suspected Home Depot thieves

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published April 4, 2016

UTICA — Utica Police Chief David Faber said drug addiction motivated a couple to steal from at least seven Home Depot locations in the metro Detroit area.

At approximately 12:45 p.m. March 9, Utica police arrested a 34-year-old Rochester man and a 31-year-old Hazel Park woman after they allegedly stole power tools, strong-armed a loss prevention officer at the Home Depot in Utica, and fled in a reportedly stolen vehicle.

The loss prevention officer alerted police of the incident. He said the male suspect assaulted him when he attempted to stop him, and the pair fled southbound on Northpointe Boulevard in a burgundy Ford Mustang at a very high rate of speed.

Police spotted the Mustang on Hall Road, crossed over the median and pursued the vehicle, which was forced to slow down for vehicles stopped at a red light just east of Utica Park Boulevard.

The vehicle pulled into the lot near McDonald’s, and police arrested the two suspects at gunpoint. Inside the vehicle were four stolen power tools and six bindles of heroin, according to the police report. The vehicle was also listed as stolen from Farmington Hills.

Police identified the suspects and transported them to the station. Both had multiple warrants out for their arrest, and the man was listed as a parole absconder, according to the police report.

The woman agreed to waive her Miranda rights and reportedly  told police they had committed a similar retail fraud at a Home Depot in Flint earlier that day. She reportedly said they had also bought some heroin in Detroit and had already consumed some of it.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Auto Theft Unit arrived at the station and determined that the male suspect had legal possession of the Mustang, despite it being reported stolen by his mother.

Utica police turned the male suspect over to the Michigan Department of Corrections on the parole absconder warrant and turned the female suspect over to the Troy Police Department on a warrant for retail fraud.

On March 10, a Home Depot corporate investigator told Utica police that the suspects had stolen merchandise from Home Depots in Warren, Roseville, Utica, Burton, Southfield, Madison Heights and Farmington Hills.

The investigator said the male suspect fought with and overpowered loss prevention officers in Utica, Roseville and Madison Heights.

The total amount of the theft in Utica was $239.97.

The Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office charged both suspects with third-degree retail fraud, assault or assault and battery, and possession of heroin. Their arraignment was scheduled for April 4, after press time, in Macomb County Circuit Court.

“With the opioid epidemic, a lot more people are addicted to it,” Faber said. “What they do to fund their habits is they steal things, so with the increase in the use of opioids is the increase in larceny-type crimes.”

Faber said the opioid epidemic is affecting an increasing number of people of all demographics.

“You’re dealing with desperate people, so we are seeing a little more of an increase in (violent crimes) — not so much with weapons and such,” Faber said. “It’s just they’re desperate and want to get away.”