LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- No matter where you live, crime is a concern. However, local police have an easy answer that they say could reduce crime by up to 70%.
Every day guns are stolen from cars across Central Arkansas. Some of them are locked, most aren't. THV11 spoke with two police departments, in very different communities who said the answer is as simple as this: lock up your guns.
Criminals walk around neighborhoods pulling car door handles, just to see if there's something valuable inside. In many cases, they're finding guns, and stealing them.
"This handgun here, unlocked vehicle. Stolen at 11 o’clock at night. But all they had to do was open the car, grab it and go,” explained Sgt. Brian Dedrick with North Little Rock Police, as he skims through that department’s breaking and entering reports. "There's no telling how many guns are stolen across Central Arkansas every month."
In July alone, they had seven guns stolen from cars. Across the river, Maumelle Police Captain Jim Hansard said criminals are coming to his town because they know people don't lock their doors.
"They come in because Maumelle has nice houses. We've got nice cars. Those cars are filled with nice things. And these criminals know that,” he said.
Maumelle has a population of 18,000. So far this year, there have been 166 car break-ins there. In 12 of those cases, guns were stolen from cars. Only once was the car door was locked.
"People are inundated with gun violence issues. Do we really want another 12 of them out there? No we don't,” Capt. Hansard said.
Last month, people at the E-Z Mart in Maumelle heard gun shots nearby and called police. Hansard said two brothers-in-law had gotten into a fight over $25 and started shooting at each other. Each of the men had a stolen gun on them. One out of Conway and one stolen from Maumelle two days before the fight.
He quickly cited another example: "Just yesterday, we had a traffic stop about 75 yards from where we are sitting right now. The two occupants were found to have a stolen gun out of Little Rock and another shot gun with them. Also a bag of marijuana. They went to jail. It just goes to show you, these guns are out there."
The ATF calls Arkansas a gun-source state: meaning criminals know many Arkansans have guns for the taking. In 2016, Arkansas was the ATF's number one state for lost and stolen guns.
"It's a serious problem. We need some help. The last thing we need are these guns on the street, where they can be used in the commission of a crime,” Hansard continued.
He explained the guns may not be used in Maumelle. It may be Jacksonville, Russellville, or Minnesota. Those guns end up on a thriving black market, sold to other criminals, who can't buy or sell through legal means.
"Someone charged with a felony, who has been convicted of that, they have to buy these guns off the black market. They are easily, readily available. Because they are stolen, and a lot of times they are stolen for pennies on the dollar,” Sgt. Dedrick explained.
He said it is very difficult for police to return stolen guns to you, unless the shooter is caught with the gun. If you want the shootings to stop, there's one thing we can all do to help.
"You must lock your doors. You've got to take your valuables out and lock your doors. If I could do that, I could probably cut the crime rate down in this town by 75%,” Capt. Hansard said.
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