Hundreds of guns stolen from local cars in the last 2 years

Jacksonville police warning drivers about locking their car doors

We've found that in more than half of the cars burglarized in our city, the doors to those cars were not locked. What's especially shocking is the number of guns stolen from those cars.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – We’ve discovered a startling number of guns have been stolen in Duval County from cars that were unlocked. Among the valuables stolen from vehicles between Jan. 1 and Feb. 20 of 2020 and the same time period the following year in 2021,192 guns were taken.

“There’s absolutely no good that can come from a gun being taken from a vehicle,” warned Jacksonville Sheriff’s officer Christian Hancock. “They are only going to be used to commit further crimes.”

We saw that last August when 27-year-old Caroline Schollaert was shot and killed when she caught a man trying to burglarize her car as it was parked outside her Riverside home. Police say Tyree Parker shot her using a gun that had been reported stolen from a car days earlier.

“These are preventable crimes every day, all day,” said Hancock.

Yet for whatever reason, many drivers are leaving their guns in their cars and not locking the door:

Firearms stolen during an auto burglary:

  • Jan. 1-Feb. 20, 2021: 89 guns stolen
  • Jan. 1-Feb. 20, 2020: 103 guns stolen

Hancock said most car burglaries happen at night, while car owners are sleeping. While he said the thieves are not specifically looking for guns, the weapons are an added bonus to a crook who can sell them on the street.

“Most of the time these crimes are occurring, they’re not breaking windows, they’re not forcing open car doors, these are individuals that are walking around in groups,” said Hancock. “They are pulling door handles, they target a specific neighborhood tonight, guess what, they’ll target a different one tomorrow night.”

Number of car burglaries involving cars that were either unlocked or had no sign of forced entry between Jan. 1- Feb. 20 of the following years:

  • 2021: 341 unlocked of 630 reported car burglaries
  • 2020: 398 unlocked of 612 reported auto burglaries

Hancock said the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reminds Duval County residents about the importance of locking their car doors and removing valuables, like guns, from their cars each night at 9 p.m. The online public awareness campaign was started several years ago.

He said thieves will burglarize a car for a dollar’s worth of coins and that drivers should not assume something they think is not valuable will not be targeted by a thief peering in a car window.

For example, you may have an empty Amazon box in your car, but the thief has no way of knowing it’s empty. Don’t leave it in your car. You may use an old Apple bag as a garbage bag in your car, a thief does not know that and may break in thinking there is something valuable inside.

Hancock said other items to remember to remove from your car that make them a target for crooks are your garage door opener, which can give a thief immediate access to your home, and spare car keys, which can be used to steal other cars in the driveway.

Last week, during a three-day span, we discovered five local drivers reported guns stolen from their unlocked cars. According to the police reports, four 9mm pistols and two 40 caliber pistols were reported missing.

If you still think a car burglary could never happen to you, you should know in the last two weeks in Duval County the Jacksonville Sheriff’s office said it responded to 115 auto burglaries.

While these crimes can happen anywhere, drivers in two parts of town reported the most auto burglaries in the last month and a half. Hancock said there were 155 in Zone 3, which includes neighborhoods on the Southside, and 162 auto burglaries reported in Zone 4, which is the Westside of Duval County.

About the Author:

Jennifer, who anchors The Morning Shows and is part of the I-TEAM, loves working in her hometown of Jacksonville.