Gun thefts in Alberta have jumped by more than 1,400% in five years: ALERT
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Law-enforcement officials say they've seen a dramatic spike in the number of gun thefts across the province.
The Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) recorded a total of 154 "incidents of break and enter to steal a firearm" in 2013, according to data provided to Metro, compared to only 10 such cases in 2008.
“That number has steadily climbed every single year,” said Mike Tucker, a spokesman with ALERT.
He said every break and enter on record might not have been primarily aimed at stealing a firearm, but there are instances where guns were specifically targeted.
The fact these firearms are ending up in the hands of criminals is problematic, Tucker said.
“Who knows the mindset of the person who has those,” he said. “Whether or not they intend to use it to commit additional offences, or whether or not it was sold … with that weapon in the hands of a criminal element, it is a significant concern to law enforcement.”
The trend is highlighted just days after Calgary police Chief Rick Hanson said illegal firearms and handguns are one of the biggest challenges facing law-enforcement agencies in Canada.
Tucker explained law enforcement in Alberta are putting an extra focus on firearms, noting ALERT is working with agencies like the Calgary Police Service and the RCMP — including its National Weapons Enforcement Support Team — to try and determine where guns seized during drug busts or other crimes are coming from.
Theft victim advises other gun owners to be cautious
Brandon MacQueen, who had four firearms and 30 to 40 replica guns stolen from his home in November 2014, believes he was targeted specifically by thieves looking for weapons.
Now, he’s advising other gun enthusiasts to be cautious about what kind of information they release to their friends and the general public.
“A lot of it is just: Be careful,” he said. “Be careful who you tell that you have firearms ... it could be as easy as the wrong person sees you walking in and out of your house, two or three times, with a gun case.”
MacQueen is an employee at the Calgary Shooting Centre, which itself was targeted in October 2012 by thieves who made of with dozens of firearms.
The number of guns seized by ALERT has also increased, Tucker said, with 150 guns being taken during the past nine months on record, compared to 149 in the entire previous year.
Norman Hamilton, manager of the Calgary Shooting Centre, said while the average gun owner may not be aware of the trend, he thinks it could cause people to think harder about how they store their firearms.
“Once those types of information gets to the general community, I would assume that they’re going to take … extra precautions with how they’re transporting them (and) how they’re storing them,” he said.
“Because no one wants to be in that situation.”
However, he added, most gun owners go “above and beyond” to ensure their firearms are stored securely.