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Gun theft a danger for owners and community

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According to state police documents, gun thefts in Troop B are up by about a third, but where they’re being stolen from has shifted. Troop B includes St. Lawrence, Franklin, Clinton, and Essex counties, along with the northern half of Hamilton County.

The numbers, which were released on Friday, show that 141 guns were reported stolen within the troop in 2012, compared to 104 reported in 2011. Senior Investigator Christopher J. Keniston of the state police gun investigation unit said although he did not have figures for 2012, only 25 of those reported stolen in 2011 were recovered and he believes that percentage will hold steady for 2012.

Franklin County saw a 50 percent drop in guns reported stolen over the one-year period; 2012 saw 13 reports and 2011 had 26. St. Lawrence County saw about a 25 percent decrease – 32 firearms were reported stolen in 2012 vs. 44 in 2011. Clinton County saw a roughly 500 percent increase in reports of stolen guns. In 2012, 66 incidents were claimed compared to only 13 in 2011. Essex County saw a marked increase in stolen gun reports between 2011 and 2012, with 10 incidents compared to 25, respectively. Hamilton County went in the opposite direction, with five reports of pilfered firearms in 2012 compared with 11 in 2011. Keniston did not say if the shift is attributed to more guns actually being stolen or if more incidents are being reported.

A problem he cited is that, especially in the case of long guns that don’t require registration, many gun owners don’t keep accurate records of what they own.

“It makes our job extremely difficult,” Keniston said. A state police news release says that 73 percent of long guns reported stolen in 2012 did not include an accurate description and serial number.

He suggested that gun owners keep track of their fire arms, including writing down the manufacturer, model, serial number, and gauge or caliber. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) offers documents to maintain such data. They are not registration forms; the gun owner would print them out and keep them for their personal records only.

Gun owners can also take steps to thwart would-be thieves, including keeping their weapons locked up, according to Keniston. This could include storing them in a safe or locked cabinet or room, and using trigger locks. Trigger locks can be provided by law enforcement agencies, sometimes at no charge. Call your local police department for more information.

Keniston also stressed that gun owners should not post pictures of themselves posing with their arsenal, especially on sites like Facebook.

“Don’t advertise a significant gun collection,” he said. “The pictures go up and lo and behold, two months later [the guns] are stolen.”

The ATF personal firearms record sheet can be printed out from http://149.101.29.141/publications/download/p/atf-p-3312-8.pdf.

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