A 9 millimeter Glock.
The man gave officers the gun’s serial number, and they entered it into a national database as stolen.
Even so, there’s a decent chance he’ll never see the weapon again.
Only five states ranked higher than Ohio last year in the number of firearms stolen or lost. About 6,900 guns went missing in the Buckeye State in 2012, according to a June report published by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Local law enforcement officials agree that Sandusky, and to a greater extent Erie County, does not see anywhere close to the number of thefts that larger Ohio metropolitan areas encounter.
“We don’t have a substantial amount of thefts, but as far as I’m concerned, one stolen gun is too many,” Erie County Chief Deputy Jared Oliver said.
Gun thefts are largely a crime of opportunity, Sandusky police Detective Gary Wichman said. Most guns stolen in the area are taken as part of a larger haul during burglaries, or are targeted specifically when an acquaintance is aware there’s a gun in someone’s home. After thieves get their hands on the weapon, they generally have a few options for unloading them.
“Guns move very quickly,” Oliver said. “Our experience shows they primarily move between individuals. But sometimes they get passed on to a business, and sometimes they’re traded at gun shows.
“A lot of times, they’re taken to Detroit or Cleveland,” Wichman said.
When a theft is reported, officers follow a standard procedure. If owners have documented the weapon’s serial number, it’s entered into LEADS, a national crime database. If the owners don’t have the serial number, officers will enter a description of the weapon into the database, but the information is often too vague to tie it back to its original owner— if, in fact, it ever surfaces again.
Mostly, officers have to pound the pavement for leads.
“Sometimes we get word on the street about where stuff goes,” Wichman said. “If not, we’ll check local pawn shops.” Oftentimes, firearm thefts go entirely unreported, either because the owner doesn’t have enough information or is hesitant to go to police.
“I’d say anywhere from a third to a half of gun thefts aren’t included in that 6,000,” Oliver said, referencing the number of Ohio guns stolen last year.
To combat this, both Wichman and Oliver stressed the importance of gun owners documenting their property and handling the weapons responsibly around others.
“Don’t leave guns in vehicles, secure them inside your residence with locks and safes,” Wichman said.
“You need to lock them up,” Oliver added. “Hang onto your paperwork, and keep records of your guns.”
“It’s a tremendous help to police departments when owners write down their numbers, keep copies of records in a separate place or take photos,” Wichman said. “Common sense goes a long way.”