Local police departments are urging residents to stop leaving firearms in their vehicles to halt thefts that already tally about 150 so far this year.
As of March 3, 31 guns had been reported stolen from vehicles in Brookhaven. As of March 4, 93 firearms had been reported stolen from vehicles in Atlanta’s Zone 2, which includes Buckhead, and 21 in Sandy Springs. In Dunwoody, five guns had been reported stolen from vehicles as of March 2.
The Atlanta Police Department is promoting a “Clean Car Campaign” to urge residents to stop attracting thieves with valuables left inside vehicles. In Brookhaven, six of the 31 guns stolen so far this year were taken from unlocked vehicles and less than half of the victims knew their gun’s serial number, according to a Brookhaven Police Department press release. BPD advised residents to avoid leaving guns in their cars even if the car is locked, and to keep a list of serial numbers for any high-value items, including firearms.
“Once these guns are stolen and in the hands of criminals, and especially when we can’t trace them by serial number, there’s a good chance they will be used to commit other crimes,” said Brookhaven Police Chief Gary Yandura in the release.
A spokesperson for the Sandy Springs Police Department said despite a decrease in larcenies from cars and a decrease in property crimes in general last year — in part due to people staying home due to the coronavirus pandemic — the department saw an increase in the number of firearms stolen from vehicles. According to daily crime data from the Atlanta Police Department, larceny from vehicles in general is up 34% in Zone 2 compared to this time in 2019 and up 9% from 2020.
“This … phenomenon is not exclusive to the city of Sandy Springs, but instead seen throughout the metro Atlanta area,” said SSPD spokesperson Sgt. Salvador Ortega in an email.
Gun thefts from vehicles have been a problem for local police departments in the past. In 2017, 2018 and 2019, there were over 200 reported thefts of firearms, ammo or gun accessories from vehicles in local communities each year.
“Guns being stolen from vehicles is certainly nothing new,” said Dunwoody Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Robert Parsons in an email. “But, generally speaking, anytime a firearm gets into the hands of a criminal, it is undoubtedly a major concern.”
According to 2019 research from Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates for gun control, between 200,000 and 500,000 guns are stolen from individuals each year in the United States. Of those incidents, about one-quarter of stolen guns are taken from cars.
According to the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan public policy research organization based in Washington, D.C., about 104,578 guns were reported stolen in Georgia from 2012 to 2017, with a total value over $47 million. Only three states had higher numbers: Florida, California and Texas.
Correction: A previous version of this story gave the incorrect yearly comparison for larceny from from vehicles in general for 2020 to 2021 in the APD’s Zone 2.