Advertisement

Theft of firearms alarming

Jan. 30—There has been a rash of firearm thefts in Walker County and Huntsville over the past year. The recent arrest of several individuals for possession of a stolen firearm led to a deeper dive into the crime in the area.

Walker County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations Division Lt. Chris Buck reported that most guns stolen were not known to have been involved in any local crimes.

"We are finding that some guns are being recovered locally, while some are ending up outside our area," Lt. Buck said.

In 2023, WCSO had 19 reports of Firearm Thefts, with eight local arrests. WCSO had 21 reports of Firearm Thefts for 2022, resulting in nine local arrests for possession of a stolen firearm.

"The greater portion of the reports taken were from the western side of the county," said Deputy Marlene Wells.

Deputy Wells said the WCSO works in partnership with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to have all recovered firearms and firearm casings entered into the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network.

"NIBIN is a database of digital 2D and 3D images of markings found on casing and bullets recovered from crime scenes or from confiscated weapons test-fired in a lab," said Deputy Wells. "That database allows investigators to match casings, find evidence for weapons trafficking and solve cold cases."

Huntsville Police Department stats show that in 2023, there were 31 firearms stolen from vehicles and 10 arrests for possession of a stolen firearm. However, in 2022, there were 13 arrests for various reasons relating to possession of a stolen firearm, according to HPD Lt. Wade Roberts.

"In 2022, we saw 65 guns stolen from a vehicle," Lt. Roberts said. "A lot of those cases come from vehicles being broken into. They were left unlocked according to my research."

Lt. Roberts said that many individuals have been charged with theft of a firearm, if they are caught with the gun.

"We have recovered quite a few of those stolen firearms in Huntsville," Lt. Roberts said. "A lot of juveniles (being caught with stolen guns). They are hanging on to them to look cool."

Lt. Roberts said his research of the theft of firearms also showed that the area south of Sam Houston Avenue from Lake Road to Highway 19 are where the majority of the thefts are happening.

"It is because there are all those apartments. There have also been a few hotels that have seen a lot of this activity," Lt. Roberts said.

Both Lt. Buck and Lt. Roberts advised residents to be aware of your surroundings and lock your vehicles.

"At the end of the day, my advise is to take it out of the vehicle," Lt. Roberts said. "No one wants to be a victim of this kind of theft."

According to areavibes.com, Huntsville received a D rating with the number of daily violent crimes in Huntsville 1.10 times more than the Texas average and 1.23 times more than the national average.

With regards to property crimes, Huntsville has a daily crime rate that is 1.26 times less than the Texas average and 1.07 times less the national average.

Areavibes.com reported that Huntsville is safer than 17% of other cities in Texas, along with 20% in the nation. Huntsville was ranked below average when compared to the rest of US cities. The website says the date and last data used reflects the 2022 calendar year and was released from the FBI in September 2023; this is the most current data available.

Sheriff Clint McRae said in a phone interview that his staff takes each report seriously. He is also proud of the partnership the department has built with ATF to potentially link crimes, locally and nationally. Sheriff McRae also reminded gun owners that it is the responsibility of each owner to make sure your weapon is secured, away from the hands of criminals.

"We have seen the recent videos showing how brave these thieves are to get into a vehicle," Sheriff McRae said. "Let's keep our tools of protection out of their reach."

Contact Brenda Poe at editor@itemonline.com