Express Auto Wash employee tracks down coin box theft suspect

The bay where the coin box was stolen out of at Express Auto Wash.

A retired police officer and current employee at Express Auto Wash on Airport Road in Traverse City used the skillset from his former job to help the Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Office arrest a suspected thief.

Security cameras at the car wash showed a man pull a vehicle with noticeable markings into the parking lot at about 7 P.M. on Friday. After a few minutes, he pulled the vehicle into an empty bay and left with the coin box, which includes a credit card reader.

Ken Coffman said that calling his old police skills into use was like riding a bike. After seeing the security footage, Coffman spotted the car while driving on Hammond Road. Coffman then followed the vehicle long enough to get a license plate number, which he called in to his manager, Dan Kaupas. Kaupas then called the Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Office, who took care of the rest.

Kaupas said that he is thankful for Coffman's bravery.

"Off the footage we received from our cameras, the vehicle had some noticeable marks to it," said Kaupas. "My employee saw the vehicle while driving, called me, and was able to follow the vehicle. It's phenomenal that he put himself out there to do that, and I'm very appreciative of him for that."

Coffman was happy to help police bring the suspect into their custody.

"It feels good. You know, we don't need it (crime) up here, and you know the old cliche: crime doesn't pay," said Coffman.

Express Auto Wash is open 24 hours, but there is not an employee on duty around the clock. Nobody was working at the time of the incident Friday evening.