Atlanta’s Growing Problem With Guns Stolen Out Of Cars
Atlanta police believe a recent surge in car break-ins in Midtown is more than random crime. Meanwhile, national reporting has found Atlanta is the country’s leading city when it comes to guns stolen out of cars.
Police are increasingly frustrated that there’s only so much they can do to stop these thefts.
Over the last two weeks, 120 cars were broken into during two sprees in Midtown. But Atlanta Police Sgt. Warren Pickard says, in many cases, the thieves are leaving obviously valuable items behind.
“What’s concerning to us is that a large amount of guns are being taken from these vehicles,” said Pickard, who said 15 firearms were stolen out of these cars. So far this year, more than 600 guns have been stolen from vehicles in Atlanta.
Brian Freskos is a reporter with The Trace, an independent online news site that covers gun violence in the U.S. He compared the number of guns reported stolenout of cars in 25 large American cities.
“As for stolen guns out of cars, yes, [Atlanta] was by far the highest,” said Freskos.
Last year, 857 guns were taken from vehicles in Atlanta. That’s twice the number of Charlotte, North Carolina, which came in second place with just over 400.
Pickard said it seems like there should be a simple solution.
“Our police officers are not allowed to leave guns in vehicles unattended, whether it’s their personal weapon or city weapon, unless it’s in a safe,” he said. Atlanta police recently released a public service announcement recommending people follow that lead. But recommending is all they can do.
San Francisco just passed a city ordinance penalizing people who leave guns in their vehicles. But Atlanta can’t do that. According to Georgia law, that kind of gun control would have to come from the state legislature.
“I am not for any law that is going to put anybody in jail or fine them because they forgot to take a firearm out of their vehicle,” said Jerry Henry, executive director of Georgia Carry, which advocates for gun rights. “Let’s go get the guys that are breaking in and put them in jail and leave them in there.”
But Atlanta police said they’ve been finding another problem while investigating these cases.
Many gun owners don’t know the serial number of their firearms, making it nearly impossible for police to track them down. In the last year and a half, Atlanta police have taken these incomplete reports on more than 500 stolen guns.
“So essentially those guns can stay out in general population, in the hands of bad guys, forever, and that’s very concerning,” Pickard said.
These hard-to-trace, stolen guns can have a big impact outside the state as well, according to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.
The number of guns from Georgia that end up used in crimes or confiscated by police elsewhere is the highest in the nation.