Jan. 03--More guns were seized from armed suspects in Orange County last year than ever before -- but thieves stole record numbers of guns as well.
Almost 1,000 guns had been reported stolen to the Orange County Sheriff's Office and Orlando Police Department through the end of November. That's only a portion of the countywide total, as gun thefts reported to the other 10 police agencies have yet to be tallied.
The 994 stolen guns reported so far represent a 46 percent jump over the 680 gun thefts reported by all 12 county police agencies in 2001, according to Orlando Sentinel research. And while the county's population has grown in the same period, it has been outpaced by the growth in gun thefts.
Thefts of firearms are of particular concern to authorities because of the likelihood they'll end up in the hands of criminals and used in more crimes. Stolen guns are so lucrative and easy to sell that Orlando police say burglars target homes and cars seeking firearms of all types.
And victims who don't securely store guns, or who don't record their weapons' serial numbers, are unwittingly contributing to a black market of essentially untraceable guns, according to interviews.
"Many homeowners have really failed to secure their weapons," said Sheriff Jerry Demings, who recommended owners invest in quality gun locks and store firearms in secure gun safes bolted to the floor where burglars are not likely to quickly find them.
Gun ownership has increased nationwide in recent years as many Americans feared the federal government might restrict the numbers and types of firearms they could own, Demings said. And that's reflected by Florida leading the U.S. with nearly 1.2 million concealed-weapon-permit holders, including about 54,000 in Orange County, he said.
"I think people are buying guns in record numbers," Demings said. "Because there are more guns, there are more opportunities for guns to be stolen."
Orange County has a history of seemingly high rates of gun theft, with Orange alone reporting more such thefts in 2001 than 14 states, territories and Puerto Rico. Last year's partial list of gun thefts in Orange exceeds the number reported in 2012 to the National Crime Information Center by 19 states, territories and Puerto Rico, records show.
Florida ranked third nationally in 2012 with 11,756 guns reported stolen, trailing only Texas and Georgia, according to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
"That's the reason we're seeing more guns on the street," Orlando police Chief Paul Rooney said of the gun-theft surge. "The guns are out there, and they're in the hands of these kids."
But even as gun thefts rise, this region and the rest of the Florida are experiencing the lowest overall crime rates in 40 years.
Officials attribute some of the drop in violent crime to targeting armed criminals through traffic stops, probation sweeps and $1,000 cash rewards for information, an attempt to get so-called "crime guns" off the street.
By the end of November, deputies seized 950 "crime guns" from suspects, while Orlando police officers seized an additional 601, records show. Crime guns are categorized as firearms seized from suspects at the time they're arrested on criminal charges.
There were no comparative "crime gun" data from a decade ago, but last year deputies seized 890 guns and Orlando police seized 480, records show.
Many guns that are seized cannot be traced to previous thefts because up to 50 percent of stolen guns go unreported, according to ATF studies. Reasons vary, but one is that many owners do not maintain records of their weapons' serial numbers.
University of Central Florida professor Jay Corzine, an authority on homicide and violent crime, said that guns stolen or bought illegally in Orange County are undoubtedly resold locally as well as nationally. For instance, he said, if a brand-new, .45-caliber Glock pistol stolen in Orlando commands twice the price in Miami, it's going to be sold in Miami.
The 2012 Crime Survey found that healthcare facility crime increased in nearly every category since the most recent survey in 2010
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1991 through the 2010 calendar year, crime is down in the United States. Nationwide, law enforcement made an estimated 13,120,947 arrests...
Zanotti Armor manufactures modular gun safes because those are easier to move around. The only tool required for assembly is a hammer.
Here's more ammunition for locksmiths to position themselves as gun safe experts. Can a Big Box store that doesn't even know what taxes to charge know anything about the safes it is selling?