ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Thieves stole five guns from Central Florida law enforcement officers in the last three months, records show.
An Eyewitness News investigation uncovered the fifth stolen gun was an incident that took place in Tavares and was not reported to media. The Tavares Police department began investigating after a pistol was stolen from an Orange County deputy’s unmarked patrol car in January.
Channel 9 previously reported four other thefts from law enforcement vehicles in 2017.
A submachine gun and an AR-15 were stolen from Orlando police officers. An AR Rifle was stolen from a Tavares Officer. And just this past weekend, a military grade, assault rifle was swiped from a Howey-in-the-Hills Lieutenant.
Most were taken from unmarked patrol cars.
Now several agencies are reviewing policies allowing law enforcement to keep guns in vehicles overnight.
Danny Banks, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement special agent in charge, knows his agency is no exception, with six stolen weapons over the last five years. Two were recovered.
“We see the theft of guns increasing, not just in law enforcement, but in the entire community,” said Banks.
No one agency keeps track of its stolen weapons. Eyewitness News reached out to 16 local agencies and 12 shared how many weapons were stolen in the last five years.
Based on those numbers and recent reports, Channel 9 found out there were at least 32 incidents where 36 or more department issued weapons were stolen from law enforcement in the last five years.
So far, five guns have been reported recovered.
Banks said each agency should evaluate its police, but what works for one may not be right for another.
“The worst thing is, to take these weapons away from law enforcement to make them inaccessible. We have to ensure that our officers have these weapons, and to save people’s lives,” said Banks.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, as well as Tavares and Winter Park police, prevent officers from keeping guns in cars overnight.
Orlando police have a temporary restriction for unmarked vehicles.