Winston-Salem police warn of firearms being stolen from unlocked vehicles

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Firearms are being stolen from vehicles at twice the rate than at this point last year in Winston-Salem.

For months, officers with the Winston-Salem Police Department have been warning residents of vehicle break-ins happening on a daily basis within the city. However, last week, officers addressed the issue of firearms being taken from unlocked vehicles, in turn ending up in the hands of criminals.

“There have been several incidents in the last few weeks of firearms being unsecured, left in the car,” said Officer Stephen Horsely. “Concealed of course, but they were still left in the vehicle and he vehicle was left unlocked.”

Officers shared a video of three would-be burglars canvassing a neighborhood to show how quickly the break-ins can happen. Luckily, residents of the neighborhood in the video had locked their vehicles and the effort was thwarted.

Yet, some criminals don’t let locks deter them, evidenced by an incident early Sunday morning in the city.

“I gave him the benefit of the doubt and I was like, ‘Alright, maybe it’s his car.’ But, then I saw him move on to the next car and I was like, ‘Something’s not right,’” said Cody Williams, who was alerted to a suspect breaking into his neighbor’s vehicles after one of their car alarms went off.

Williams said the man ransacked several vehicles, even after the alarm sounded.

“We had another neighbor pull up while he was doing it and he just paused and sat in the car like it was his own,” he said.

The man even smashed a car window with a golf club to gain access.

“He was finding ways to get in either way,” Williams added.

Winston-Salem police say there have been 41 instances of firearms being stolen from vehicles in the city this year, resulting in 46 firearms ending up in the hands of criminals.

The 46 firearms are double the amount stolen from vehicles at this point last year.

In 70 instances where firearms were stolen from vehicles in all of 2015, 83 were taken. That was up from 58 in 2014 and 47 in 2013.

Recovering the stolen firearms is not an easy task. Of the 46 stolen this year, three have been recovered. Of the 83 stolen in 2015, six were recovered. Officers were able to find 17 of the 58 stolen in 2014, thanks to hits from the National Crime Information Center, as well as two busts of serial autobreakers.

Nine of the 47 firearms stolen in 2013 were recovered.