WTOC Investigates: Unlocked cars and stolen guns

WTOC Investigates: Unlocked cars and stolen guns

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Unlocked cars are often a target for thieves to find stolen guns. In a WTOC Investigation, WTOC’s Romney Smith looked more into the numbers and how local police departments are tracking.

Stolen guns are often sold to people unable to buy them legally and/or are used in a crime. Smith sat down with the Chatham County Police Chief to discuss the simple, yet frustrating topic. The Chatham County Police Department and the Savannah Police Department are on track to meet or beat the number of stolen guns from unlocked cars this year. Chief Jeff Hadley with Chatham County PD says it happens way too often.

“It becomes normalized to them, almost like your wallet and your registration, you know, ‘I have my gun in my glove box and I kind of forget,' and we understand that, but we have to be better than that,” Chief Hadley said.

WTOC asked what the message is to people who don’t think it will happen to them.

“It will! It has. We’ve had, in our short existence, almost 80 firearms stolen from unlocked vehicles. I think we had one that was a smash and grab,” Hadley said.

In 2018, the unincorporated area of Chatham County had a reported 53 guns stolen from vehicles. Only one of those vehicles was locked. So far in 2019, the department has responded to 32 guns stolen from vehicles, and only two were locked.

When it comes to the Savannah Police Department, officers responded to 122 stolen guns from unlocked vehicles in 2017, 120 in 2018, and 60 so far this year.

Chief Hadley says when it comes to your vehicle, be proactive.

“Please lock it. It’s really that simple and it’s totally preventable, and it’s you being a responsible gun owner for this community,” Chief Hadley said.

In general, there is no repercussion for a gun owner whose weapon is stolen, but the chief says it’s the gun owner’s responsibility to report it immediately in case the gun is used in a crime.

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