More than two dozen firearm thefts have occurred countywide since Jan. 1, and authorities are urging residents to take preventative measures to keep their property safe.
The Greenville Police Department reported that at least 24 guns have been stolen so far this year in the city. Of those, 17 were taken from vehicles according to Kristen Hunter, public information officer for the department. Every one of those vehicles was unsecured with no force indicated in the break-in, she said.
“The real issue is vehicles being left unlocked,” Hunter said. “With vehicle break-ins, it is really a crime of opportunity. Many can be avoided simply by locking your doors. We have seen footage on home security cameras of thieves moving from car to car testing door handles. They only get in the unlocked ones — they are not going to take that risk or go through the effort of breaking into a locked vehicle.”
Sgt. Lee Darnell with the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office says he sees the same trend on a countywide scale. The sheriff’s office has investigated multiple thefts though exact figures were not available.
On Feb. 16, weapons and ammunition valued at $3,700 were stolen at a home west of Greenville. Darnell says the sheriff has been working to get out information about gun security, especially when it comes to automobiles.
“About every other month I am putting out information, posting on social media or sharing the same thing — please lock your cars,” Darnell said. “No matter where you are, but especially at home.”
The trend of guns being taken from cars has continued for “a while” according to Hunter, who says that the department has been similarly putting out information and literature on the issue.
Authorities also posited that city residents who do not have concealed carry permits might be more likely to leave their guns in the car. All owners should be more prone to bring their weapons inside while also ensuring that locks are secured, Hunter said.
“We are not victim-blaming,” Hunter said. “As a responsible gun owner, think about how guns can end up in the wrong hands and what could possibly come of that.”
Hunter said that, should the need arise, options are available for automobile storage as well.
“Get a vault or box for your vehicle,” Hunter said. “There are also secure vehicle compartments that guns can be safely stored inside. If someone does manage to access the vehicle, they won’t be able to access your guns.”