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With 17 firearms stolen from vehicles this year, Longmont police urge residents to lock their cars

Jeff Satur, deputy chief of police, estimated about 400 car owners were victims of a break-in that could have been avoided. 

As of last week, Longmont Public Safety reported 17 firearms were stolen from 15 from unlocked vehicles this year, according to a Facebook post on the Longmont Fire, Police and Community Health and Resilience page.

“This year alone we have had 437 car break-ins,” said Jeff Satur, deputy chief of police. 

Ninety percent of car break-ins are the result of owners leaving their vehicles unlocked, Longmont Public Safety stated in the comments on a recent Facebook post. Satur estimated about 400 car owners were victims of a break-in that could have been avoided. 

Criminals tend to wait until the early hours of the morning when most people are asleep, and then walk around town seeking opportunities for crime, Satur said. 

“The typical video that we see or the typical MO is they walk down the street at 2 a.m., 3 a.m. and they check car doors. If they find a car door that’s open they jump in and take what they can see … It’s not hard to have a crime spree … (when criminals) will go up and down a street and hit 20 cars at a time,” Satur said.

Unlocked cars make easy targets for criminals because entering them draws less attention than breaking a window or setting off an alarm, he said. 

“It is very uncommon for people to break a window if there’s not something visibly present or visibly valuable (in the car). … They are more unlikely to get caught that way because when you start breaking windows that sometimes gets people’s attention, dogs’ attention,” Satur said.

The trend of firearms being stolen from unlocked cars is not unique to Longmont. NPR in 2019 reported that cases in which guns were stolen from unlocked vehicles doubled between 2009 and 2018.  

While Satur could not recall a specific incident in which a gun stolen from a car was used in another crime, he did talk about what could possibly happen.

He said stolen guns have been found in the hands of gang members in other communities. Also, stolen guns can be sold or pawned. Since most weapons are not required to be registered in Colorado, it can make it difficult to track them down once stolen, Satur said.

“If they are breaking into cars, their character, I’m going to say, is maybe not the highest anyways, so now we’ve just armed that individual,” he said. 

Just like with other valuables, guns stowed in vehicles should be kept hidden away. Satur suggested looking into devices to lock a gun. 

“If you have it in your vehicle it should be out of sight and hopefully in some sort of locked device that is not easily stolen out of your car,” Satur said. 

He also suggested gun owners follow the same practices with weapons in their homes. 

Longmont PD has cable locking devices available for the public to pick up from the police station. The devices won’t keep guns from being stolen, but can be used to assist owners in gun safety, Satur said. 

Leaving vehicles unlocked doesn’t only result in valuables being stolen from cars. Sometimes an unlocked car is stolen, especially when the owner leaves the car running or leaves the keys inside, Satur said. 

If valuables are inside a car when it is stolen, it only adds to the headaches faced by victims, he said. 

“It’s a significant burden on the victim if they steal a purse with your credit cards or your checks. That leads to other crimes,” Satur said.  

Five years ago, Longmont Public Safety conducted a “Hide it, Lock it, or Lose it” campaign  aimed at reminding residents to remove valuables from their cars and to lock their vehicles. While this program is not active, the sentiment is still the same, Satur said. 

The concept also applies to open-garage burglaries when people forget to close their garage doors at night. Longmont PD reports that there have been 32 open-garage burglaries this year.  

“It is really hard from an enforcement standpoint when people aren’t taking at least some minimal precautions to keep their stuff safe,” Satur said. 

Minimal precautions include removing or hiding valuables in vehicles, locking vehicles, closing garage doors and removing the keys from vehicles. “All of those things help in reducing temptation,” Satur said.

Macie May

About the Author: Macie May

Macie May has built her career in community journalism serving local Colorado communities since 2017.
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