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Martin County sheriff urges gun owners to lock up weapons after string of thefts

Sheriff William Snyder says county experiencing 'alarming increase' in auto burglaries
Martin County Sheriff William Snyder
Posted at 4:10 PM, Jan 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-13 18:34:45-05

STUART, Fla. — Martin County's sheriff said guns are being stolen out of cars at an alarming rate, even prompting a reverse 911 call to people who live in the county.

The sheriff is pleading with gun owners to help them keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

Sheriff William Snyder said that in just the first 12 days of the year, six guns have been stolen, all from unlocked cars. Guns that once stolen are incredibly difficult to find, and worse, hard to know who they'll end up with.

The Martin County Sheriff's Office sent out its first full county reverse 911 call of the year.

"We are currently experiencing an alarming increase in auto burglaries on the Treasure Coast," the call said, with a plea to gun owners to lock up their weapons, and better yet, lock them up inside their homes.

Detectives are tracking an unprecedented spike in gun thefts from unlocked cars.

"There's probably no more disturbing theft than a handgun because we know invariably, 10 out of 10, that gun has ended up in the wrong hands and will be used in some kind of crime," Snyder said.

In 12 days, five guns were stolen back-to-back in Palm City, and a sixth gun was stolen in Jensen Beach.

"We know based on the M.O. that the one with the five cars all at once, those are our traveling felons, the burglars, the thieves coming at us from Dade, Broward or Palm Beach County," Snyder said.

In surveillance video from the Martin County Sheriff's Office, you can see a group looking for unlocked car doors. When the doors are locked in one case, they move on.

The sheriff's office showing how quickly thieves can take your belongings when a door is open, in and out in 25 seconds.

A gun was also recently stolen in Palm Bay from an unlocked car in just 20 seconds.

This case is also being reviewed by the South Florida Burglary Task Force, a team of detectives from Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.

"It's all hand on deck," Snyder said.

"There’s pretty much no excuse," said Glenn Rubin, who is in the business of getting guns into legal hands at American Defense.

He’s also frustrated to see gun owners not being responsible.

"To me it’s common sense but not everyone sees it that way," Rubin said.

He said gun owners looking to store their weapons in their cars should be buying gun safes and locks. An investment he said is just a part of owning a gun.

And even with the safes, Rubin supports the sheriff’s advice to still not leave a gun behind.

"Don't leave your car unlocked. Don't leave valuables in your car and absolutely never leave a firearm unattended in a vehicle," Snyder said.

Leaving a gun in an unlocked car is not a crime in Florida. Investigators fear making it a crime might deter gun owners from reporting their guns stolen in the first place.