Firearms appear to be one of the top targets for thieves when they gain access to vehicles, which in most cases are unlocked.
Allen County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chris Ford recalls a recent experience when his work-issued pistol was taken from his personal vehicle at about 10 a.m. May 9 while he was getting his oil changed at GMC Leachman at 2012 Scottsville Road.
“I just locked it in the parking lot and handed in the keys,” said Ford, who spent his time in the waiting room during the oil change.
“I made it across Scottsville Road,” Ford said. “Something just told me to check for (the firearm) because I’m very particular about my pistol.”
Ford immediately dialed 911 when he noticed the 27 Glock pistol – valued at $450 – was missing from the center console of the vehicle.
Bowling Green Police Department officers spoke with two men who had access to the vehicle during the oil change, and searched a 2003 Ford Taurus belonging to Thomas J. Galloway, 30, 151 Candle Court, No. 3. Officers found two guns, one of which turned out to be the gun described by the deputy, according to a BGPD report.
Police found a Glock 22 in the front seat of the vehicle, which turned out to have been purchased by Galloway at Sherwood’s Guns, the report said. The deputy’s gun was in the trunk of the vehicle wrapped up in clothing.
Galloway was arrested and charged with receiving stolen property (firearm), according to online jail records.
While Ford’s firearm was recovered, others often times are not, mainly due to gun owners not keeping track of serial numbers on the firearm.
“You’d be surprised that so many people don’t know the serial number on the gun,” said Warren County Sheriff Jerry “Peanuts” Gaines, adding that many stolen guns are sold at pawn shops.
“People need to keep their serial numbers,” Ford said, who said law enforcement officers in Allen County encountered a standoff recently in which a stolen shotgun was recovered.
“It was entered stolen in 1996,” Ford said, adding that it can be years before a stolen firearm turns up.
Tracking stolen guns becomes much easier when serial numbers are available to law enforcement officers, who will put the serial number into the National Crime Information Center database and report it as stolen, said BGPD spokesman Officer Ronnie Ward.
“If they don’t have their serial number, it’s hard to track them,” Ward said. “It just depends on what they do with the gun. If they pawn it, it’s relatively easy for us to recover it, but other than that, it’s relatively difficult for us to recover a stolen gun.”
In recent gun thefts reported in Bowling Green, the biggest lures for thieves have been unlocked vehicles.
A man told police his gun was stolen from his 2009 blue Chevrolet Cobalt between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. May 13 while it was parked at Roland Bland Park, 400 Center St.
The man said the Pietta Colt 1851 Navy style revolver, valued at $150, was taken from the vehicle’s glove box, according to a BGPD report.
He told police he had left the driver’s door unlocked. He described the gun as having a black barrel and cylinder, a brass trigger guard and a brown wooden handle, the report said. He did not believe the gun was loaded.
The vehicle did not appear to be rummaged through, and there was no damage, the report said. There are no suspects.
“A large percentage of people that break into cars get into vehicles that are already unlocked,” Ward said. “Lock your doors – that’s the biggest deterrence.”
Gun thefts are rising. From Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2011, there were seven guns reported stolen from vehicles, according to BGPD records. That number increased significantly during that same time period in 2012, with 35 guns reported stolen from vehicles.
Ward said there appears to be no apparent explanation for the increase in 2012.
From Jan. 1 through May 15, eight guns have been stolen from vehicles in Bowling Green – higher than the total number in 2011.
The sheriff’s office was unable to provide detailed vehicle theft report statistics because its previous database – used for processing calls for service – did not provide refined, detailed analysis of crime statistics.
The sheriff’s office has since implemented a computer aided dispatch system similar to the one used by the BGPD and will be able to provide more refined statistics in the future, said Stephen Harmon, sheriff’s office communications supervisor.