ORANGE PARK, Fla. – Clay County deputies are advising residents not to leave valuables in their cars after firearms were stolen from three vehicles in the last week.
Many people think as long as the items are hidden, they won't be targeted, but deputies said that's not the way thieves work.
“I wouldn't leave anything valuable in my vehicle,” said Frank Sexton, with the Clay County Sheriff's Office.
Deputies have received several reports of stolen firearms snatched up during car burglaries, including a case on Summit Drive in Orange Park.
“They come away from their home area and go to another area they like to pick on,” said Lloyd Morris, who lives a couple of houses down from one of the people reporting a pistol stolen from a car.
The Clay County Sheriff's Office reported 516 car burglaries in 2016 and 99 car thefts.
“When they break into a car, they're going to look everywhere: Under the seat, the console, the rear, so there are not any hiding places thieves aren't aware of,” News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said.
Smith said there's no safe place to leave weapons within a car. He said each time someone leaves a car, their weapon should also leave to prevent another year like the last.
“In 2016, Atlanta, Georgia, led the nation with over 1,000 weapons stolen from automobiles,” Smith said. “The Jacksonville area came in second, with over 550 weapons stolen from cars.”
Of the weapons stolen from cars within the last week in Clay County, at least one of the guns has been returned to the owner and an arrest has been made.
Deputies encouraged residents to immediately report if they find they're in possession of a stolen gun.