As of Aug. 31, police said, 269 firearms had been reported stolen, the Durham Police Department stated in a news release.
That’s a 4% increase from the 258 guns reported stolen by the same time in 2020, and a 15% increase from the 233 guns reported stolen by the same time in 2019.
More than half of the weapons were stolen from cars, and a majority of those cars were unlocked at the time, according to the release.
The department could not provide figures on how many stolen guns were used in crimes, a spokeswoman said..
The News & Observer asked to speak with a Durham officer to learn more about the risks gun thefts pose to the city, but the department did not make one available for an interview.
As of Aug. 31, the Durham County Sheriff’s Office said 20 guns had been reported stolen so far this year. That’s up from 16 reported firearm thefts across the entire year in 2020. In all of 2019, there were 85 gun thefts reported to the sheriff’s office.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw gun sales spike around the state over the past year, as Triangle sheriff’s offices saw pistol purchase permit applications double, or triple in the early months of the pandemic.
In Wake County, a record high number of permit applications caused the Sheriff’s Office to temporarily halt new applications. That decision was reversed after the office was sued by gun-rights groups, The N&O reported.
Majority of gun thefts reported in South, study finds.
Roughly 6% of state and federal prisoners who had a gun at the time of their offense said they had stolen the weapon, according to a 2019 report by the U.S. Department of Justice. The report found 43% had purchased their guns off the street or from an underground market.
In 2017, researchers found that roughly 380,000 guns were stolen from private gun owners across the U.S. each year.
Southerners, who accounted for 37% of U.S. households and 43% of gun owners, were the victims of roughly 66% of all gun thefts, according to the study.
Capt. Eric DeSimone of the Raleigh Police Department said in an interview this month that the capital city is also seeing unsecured guns being stolen from homes or vehicles.
“There is no great hiding spot,” he said. “A secured weapon is the only way to have a weapon.”
DeSimone encouraged those who have had guns stolen to report them to Raleigh police.
“If it is not reported, we don’t know about it,” he said. “That just leads to another weapon on the street that somebody can get their hands on.”
The N&O has requested Raleigh police data on the city’s gun thefts.
Firearm theft is a felony offense under North Carolina state law.
Federal and state law do not require that private gun owners report gun thefts to law enforcement, except those involving weapons registered under the National Firearms Act.
How you can prevent gun theft.
Here’s how Durham police say you can avoid being a victim of gun theft.
Remove firearms from unattended vehicles.
If you can’t remove your gun, do not leave it in plain sight — opt for a gun safe or lockbox, preferably in the trunk of your car.
Lock your car’s doors.
Do not leave the keys in the vehicle.
At home, keep your guns secured in a lockbox or gun safe.
Record all serial numbers for your guns — if they are stolen, these will help you recover them.
Durham police are also asking anyone with information about gun thefts to call CrimeStoppers at 919-683-1200.
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