The Watch with Will Kennedy: Street Value of Stolen Guns

CMPD's effort to get firearms off the streets is driving criminals to target gun and pawn shops & your firearms.

CHARLOTTE, NC — As many as 600,000 guns are stolen every year in the US. That’s better than one every minute!

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police are working to keep those guns off the streets. But their success in doing so may be putting even more pressure on criminals to target your firearms.

“If you steal a gun out of a car, out of a pawn shop, you can easily get $200, $250 for it,” says CMPD officer John Frisk. “You know that’s pure profit for somebody who’s stealing that gun.”

Frisk spent 14 years patrolling some of Charlotte’s highest crime areas. He says the street value of stolen guns, and CMPD’s efforts to get firearms off the streets, is driving criminals to target gun and pawn shops.

We’ve seen a spike in bold robberies of these businesses.

“If you go out to a pawn shop and you steal 30, 40, 50 guns,” says Frisk. “That’s a lot of profit.”

CMPD has seen consistent increases in guns found and seized for the last five years; averaging more than 1,800 per year. And the 2016 numbers are on track for a 25% increase.

The pressure on criminals to replace those guns is also driving an increase in guns being stolen from vehicles. 408 were taken in Charlotte in 2015.

There’s nothing new about criminals breaking into vehicles, but what they’re targeting may have changed. They’re making their way through neighborhoods, looking for an easy score. Maybe breaking your window, or pulling the handle.
Once they’re in your vehicle, they know exactly what they’re looking for. They’re not targeting the traditional items. Instead, they’re checking your glove box. Under your seat. Maybe your console. Looking for a gun.

When these weapons are swiped from a gun or pawn shop, or from your vehicle, they don’t just disappear.

The ATF says they are often involved in other crimes, and pose “a substantial threat to public safety and law enforcement”.

“Do not leave your gun in a car,” says Officer Frisk. “Don’t lock it in the glove box. Don’t put it in the trunk. Don’t put it up underneath your seat. You know, either have it on you, or keep it at your house.”

Charlotte ranked 3rd on an ATF list of the 25 largest US cities that reported numbers of guns stolen from vehicles. Atlanta was number one with 857 last year.