News 5 Investigates: Guns stolen from unlocked vehicles is still a problem

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — On Valentine’s Day, a Mobile church held a vigil for a young teenaged girl killed in 2017 by a shot from a stolen gun.

“People that leave guns in their car, they should know better,” said Willie Savage. His daughter, Nia, was the victim.

Mobile Police said the gun used in the crime was one of the dozens stolen from cars during Mardi Gras 2017 from vehicles that were not locked. Police consistently ask people to lock their vehicles. It’s a message that doesn’t appear to be getting through.

“The majority of those, about 80 percent are unlocked, and the other disturbing fact is only about half of them have the serial numbers recorded and so we’re unable to determine exactly how many guns are being stolen, those are just what’s being reported to us,” said Mobile Public Safety Director James Barber.

Each year across the country, hundreds of thousands of guns are stolen. Last year in Mobile, almost 12 hundred guns were stolen from vehicles, the vast majority, about 80 percent, were unlocked.

Last July, Mobile Police arrested 19-year-old Marco Perez and two teenagers. They were accused of breaking into dozens of vehicles. In November, Perez was named in a federal indictment for gun trafficking.

“They were part of a gun trafficking organization and by that I mean that is exactly what they do–they go into neighborhoods at night, they remove the guns from the unlocked vehicles and the traffic those guns and sell them,” said Barber.

By now, you’ve probably heard of Perez. In January 2019, he was charged with capital murder for shooting and killing Mobile Police Officer Sean Tuder with a stolen gun. That gun was tracked back to its owner who had not reported it stolen.

Less than a week after Tuder was shot, another shooting took the life of a three-year-old boy in Prichard. Police said Damion Little fired that shot during a domestic dispute with the boy’s mother. The gun he used was stolen.

Guns stolen from unlocked cars happens all along the Gulf Coast. It’s not uncommon to hear of car break-ins in Daphne. In many of those cases, the thieves are looking for only one thing.

“We have had several instances where there was a lot of property in the vehicle, to include phones, cash, expensive sunglasses, all kinds of electronics and they have bypassed all of that and simply stolen the guns out,” said Daphne Police Sgt. Jason Vanoy.

Dozens of guns are stolen in Baldwin County each year. Last year Escambia County, Florida reported almost 250 stolen guns, most of them taken from unlocked cars.

Those who have been a victim of gun theft say it’s heart-wrenching to find out their gun was used in a crime, especially a murder. During our initial investigation last May, we met Edward Adler. His gun was stolen and used in a murder.

“And I just panicked, I was sick,” Adler said.

Police say they’ll continue to ask people to lock their vehicles. Public Safety Director Barber says they just want people to help them protect citizens by helping to stem the flow of stolen guns on the streets. The simplest and most obvious way to do that, lock your vehicle.

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