HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Coming off of a year with elevated statistics, the number of gun thefts so far in 2023 is set to outpace the previous.
In 2021, about 3,700 guns were stolen from cars, according to Houston police statistics. The following year, about 4,400 were taken, which is about an 18% increase.
The statistics for the first three months of 2023 are already outpacing the previous year.
Both January and February showed about a 12% increase, while March fell by three stolen guns compared to March 2022.
Sgt. Tracy Hicks with Houston police's auto theft division said criminals used to go after laptops and tools when they broke into cars but found them not as valuable on the resale market. Guns, however, are.
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"The people that are buying these stolen guns are not people that are allowed to go and buy guns," Hicks said. "To say 4,400 guns are in the hands of people that aren't supposed to have guns is scary, and it's concerning."
He said thieves often target certain areas and specific vehicles.
According to Hicks, criminals will hit cars at concerts, sporting events, or bars because they know guns are not allowed inside. There is also "gun jugging" happening, which is similar to following and robbing people as they leave a bank, except thieves follow people leaving gun ranges.
Criminals are also profiling vehicles.
"Big trucks that have those 'Come and Take It' stickers in the back window," Hicks said. "Any Second Amendment, pro-guns, military, even as law enforcement, you know, we might have a Thin Blue Line sticker on our vehicle. They target those first."
HPD is working alongside other elected officials in the city to hand out gun safes that can be put in cars. They have already given out 1,000 and have plans to hand out several thousand more.
Hicks said their plan is getting national attention.
"There's never ever a time to leave your gun unsecured in your vehicle," Hicks said. "I don't want to hear one excuse. 'Well, I was going to be in here a minute' or 'I thought I hid it well' or 'I forgot it.' No, no, that's not an option."
The exact dates for the future gun-safe giveaways have not been announced.
You can track crime and safety across Houston and in your neighborhood, with ABC13's Neighborhood Safety Tracker.
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