YPD fights to reduce the high number of guns stolen every year

YPD fights to reduce the high number of guns stolen every year »Play Video
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Stolen guns ending up in the wrong hands can often have deadly consequences. That's the reality the Yakima Police Department faces every day with its gang unit.

Jeffrey Brooks once had his gun stolen from his car. When he realized it was gone, he spent hours tracking down the thief before recovering it.
He didn't want a life to be injured or lost on account of his property.

"It'll be on your conscience for the rest of your life because, without you having that weapon, it can never take place," said Brooks.

Yakima police say recovering stolen firearms is a high priority.

"Because if criminals have the firearms, they're generally not afraid to use them," said Sgt. Uriel Mendoza from the YPD Gang Unit.

Police says the majority of stolen guns are taken by gang members. Besides using them for crimes, they say there's also a large black market for gang members or thieves trying to make quick cash.

KIMA dug up the numbers to see how many guns are stolen in Yakima. After nearly 200 in 2011, the number dropped to 145 in 2012.
It grew again last year, and we're at about 50 this year to date.

Police say more officers in the street will make a difference to continue to get those high numbers down.

"Now we have seven-day coverage between the two gang teams and we support patrol, so that definitely plays a big role," said Mendoza. "The more officers you have to concentrate on a particular crime, the more chances you have of catching that criminal."

In addition to YPD's gang unit, they get help from the Violent Crimes Task Force, DEA, FBI and SWAT. Police say most guns are stolen from homes or cars, rather than businesses. It's important to keep them in a secure place.

Gun owners like Jeffrey agree people need to be educated and responsible to own a gun.

"If someone takes a weapon from you and it ends up in the wrong hands, that can change someone's life forever," he said.

Police say convicted felons found with stolen firearms can get at least five years added to their prison sentence.