Crime & Courts

Police: Most guns stolen from cars parked at homes and apartments, not businesses

Here are some basic safety tips all gun owners should follow

No matter what type of gun you own, there are general guidelines that all gun owners should follow. Here are some basic tips to keep you and your family safe.
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No matter what type of gun you own, there are general guidelines that all gun owners should follow. Here are some basic tips to keep you and your family safe.

Most guns are stolen from cars while they’re parked overnight at people’s homes and apartments — not from cars outside businesses or buildings that don’t allow firearms on the premises, Wichita police say.

The numbers debunk a commonly held belief that most firearms thefts happen at locations where carrying a weapon is prohibited and gun owners leave them unattended in their vehicles.

Since the beginning of the year, thieves have taken 126 guns from vehicles in Wichita. The majority disappear between midnight and 5 a.m., Lt. Scott Brunow said, mainly on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

In more than half of reported handgun theft cases — 71 out of 119 — the cars they were stolen from were parked at people’s homes and apartment buildings, Brunow said.

Far fewer were taken from vehicles parked at other places. Those include:

  • 15 cases of guns stolen from cars parked on city streets
  • 11 cases where cars were parked at businesses, offices or restaurants
  • Eight at motels or hotels
  • Three each at parking lots or garages and schools
  • Two each at bars or night clubs and in alleyways
  • One each at a hospital, Exploration Place, a nursing home and a convenience store

Since April, Brunow has been tweeting insights into Wichita’s vehicle thefts and larcenies under the handle @AutoTheftWPD. He said during a news briefing at City Hall on Thursday that when he mentions statistics about gun thefts from vehicles, usually at least one person points the blame at businesses that have banned firearms from their property.

That’s what happened on Monday when Brunow shared a new map that shows hotspots for vehicle larcenies and a list of popular items stolen.

The list of items, which covered thefts from Aug. 1-15, included six guns.

One Twitter user replied to Brunow’s post: “I’m blaming the businesses that have the no gun signs for guns stolen out of vehicles.”

In response, Brunow did a little more leg work, then shared a graph that showed most of this year’s gun thefts happening overnight, when most businesses are closed.

“That started what I would call a healthy discussion on Twitter back and forth about people doing that,” he said at Thursday’s news briefing.

Brunow said so far this year, gun thefts from cars are down compared to the same time period last year. For all of 2018, slightly fewer than 260 guns were stolen from vehicles.

This year’s statistics look good, but “that’s still too many” stolen guns ending up in the hands of criminals, Brunow said.

“A lot of those (stolen guns) are turned around and used in other crimes,” he added.

Recent examples include a robbery on Maize road where teens were arrested with a stolen gun and a break-in at an off-duty police officer’s home where the intruder had a stolen gun, Brunow said.

Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Kunze was fatally shot in the line of duty last year with a stolen gun.

Police encourage gun owners to take their firearms with them when they leave a vehicle whenever possible, or keep them in a secure place like a lock box at locations where carrying is banned.

Besides using social media to combat gun thefts through education, the Wichita Police Department has also started a program called “Operation Save-A-Casing,” which encourages gun owners to save two spent shell casings from each of their firearms.

Under the voluntary program, gun owners will keep their casings in a safe place and turn them over to the police department only if their firearms are stolen.

The casings then could help authorities match the stolen weapons to those used in crimes later.

Officer Charley Davidson said program flyers that have a pocket for storing casings will be available at each of Wichita’s four police substations by Saturday. Gun locks will also be available at the substations this weekend, he said.

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Amy Renee Leiker has been reporting for The Wichita Eagle since 2010. She covers crime, courts and breaking news and updates the newspaper’s online databases. You can reach her at 316-268-6644. She’s an avid reader and mom of three in her non-work time.
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