After a recent string of thefts, Washington police are urging residents to lock their vehicles.
Police are investigating a series of incidents where items have been stolen from unlocked vehicles. On Tuesday alone, officers took four separate reports of thefts from vehicles.
Washington Detective Sgt. Steve Sitzes said in each case the thefts came from unlocked cars.
“We haven’t had a broken window or anything,” he said.
The thefts are not just in one area of town, but are concentrated mostly on the west side of Washington, west of Jefferson Street. The thefts have occurred overnight at residences, Sitzes said.
Sitzes said the best way to avoid any issues is to lock doors at night.
“We got video of a suspect from a surveillance camera at someone’s home,” he said. “It’s basically a shadowy figure with a hoodie on just going on and trying car doors.”
Sitzes said police were troubled by some of the items stolen.
He said at least four guns have been reported stolen and only one has been recovered. He said guns often end up in St. Louis and are traded for drugs.
The number of stolen guns has been on the rise this year. Sitzes said it may be because more people are carrying guns in their vehicles thanks to a change in the state law.
The new law, Senate Bill 656, went into effect Jan. 1 and allows residents to carry a concealed firearm without advanced training, law enforcement background checks or a permit. Prior to passage, to legally carry a concealed firearm residents were required to obtain the CCW permit, which is a five-year conceal permit, with the approval of the sheriff’s office.
“It’s definitely increased — the thefts have increased since that because more people are leaving them in the cars,” he said. “More people are leaving guns in their cars, they may not be carrying them on their person, but they’re leaving them in the car. It’s not one of those things that they carry every day where they think ‘Oh I need to take this in the house,’ it’s left in the center console.”
Sitzes said it didn’t appear the thieves were targeting vehicles that may have guns or even looking for guns. He said it seems like the thieves are just looking for unlocked vehicles and hoping to find something of value.
“They’re checking lots of cars,” he said. “We’ve had cars where a handful of change was stolen, things like that. Sometimes they just get lucky and hit the cars where people are leaving them unlocked and are leaving weapons in the car.”
All of the recent thefts have occurred at homes instead of businesses. In other communities, thieves sometimes target businesses, like hospitals, that don’t allow guns.
“We’ve not had any of those cases where someone ran into a store or whatever (and a gun was stolen), they’re all at homes at night,” he said.
Sitzes said people carrying guns in their cars need to make an effort to take them in at night.
“Secure the items of value overnight,” he said.