COLORADO SPRINGS — News5 is digging deeper into one of the biggest public safety threats we face in the pikes peak region, criminals with stolen guns. News5 uncovered hundreds of guns have already been stolen from our neighborhoods this year, and the problem is only getting worse.
One gun the the wrong hands can have deadly consequences, but in Colorado Springs thousands of guns have now been stolen by criminals over the last several years. There are concerns it's fueling an uptick in violent crime.
"We've seen a lot of those cases lately where that weapon that has been stolen we find it used in another crime," said Colorado Springs Police Department Crime Prevention Officer M.J. Thomson.
Take a look at the crime stats News5 recently requested.
Since 2017, the number of stolen guns has increased every year in Colorado Springs. Now, 2021 is on pace to set a new record. Investigators say in most cases guns are being stolen because they are being left in vehicles.
"We understand that El Paso County has issued somewhere over 50,000 of concealed weapons permits," said Thomson. "So we know there's a lot of people in El Paso County having weapons on their person, but that does not mean your gun should be stored in your vehicle."
"We probably saw about 25% of gun sales this past year were people who have never owned a gun before. We try very hard to get them into training," said longtime gun store owner Paul Paradis.
Paradis owns Paradise Sales, a gun store in Colorado Springs that offers a 26 hour training course for new gun owners. It's one of the most comprehensive in the industry.
"But a lot of people go out and take a 2 or 3 or 4 hour course where they really don't learn much of anything and that's problematic because they don't know what they don't know," said Paradis.
He says some of the most common mistakes gun owners make is not properly storing their gun and not knowing the make, model, and serial number if it's stolen.
"What I do at my store is I provide every student a little booklet with the information and I beg them to put it somewhere safe so if your gun gets stolen you can supply this information to the police officer quickly and it gives them a far greater chance at recovering your gun," said Paradis.
At critical staffing levels, the police department is concerned about a good Samaritan encountering the thieves before they're able to respond.
"He's at the next-door neighbors house or your house and you go out and confront them, now you have a person who five minutes ago was not armed, now that person is armed," said Thomson.
If you have a gun stolen it is now the law in the State of Colorado to report it stolen within five days of the crime. Failure to do so can result in hundreds of dollars in fines and even a misdemeanor charge if you fail to report stolen guns on multiple occasions.