If everyone in the northwest valley locked their guns securely, Metropolitan Police Department Capt. Sasha Larkin said the number of stolen firearms in that area could drop by 90 percent.
But Larkin, captain of Metro’s northwest area command, said residents in her jurisdiction have yet to get the message her department has been pushing for months. As of Tuesday, 116 firearms have been stolen in the northwest valley since the start of 2019, Larkin said during a Wednesday interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Out of those 116 firearms stolen, 70 percent were taken from homes, while 20 percent were taken from cars, she said.
“Stolen guns, to me, is a simple fix,” Larkin said. “We have this incredible country where we have this incredible freedom to be gun owners. The next step to that is just to secure them.”
Reducing home burglaries in the area is one way to cut down on stolen firearms, because finding guns is one of the most common goals for burglars, she said. In late March, the area command formed the Help Us Help You task force, dedicated to reducing home burglaries, and started reaching out to the area’s residents.
The task force, led by Lt. Rick Given, is set to be active throughout the summer, Larkin said. It focuses on educating people in the northwest to make their homes unappealing to burglars and keep their possessions safe — especially firearms.
“Let’s be honest, the thing that we’re trying to say most of all: Be a responsible gun owner, buy a safe,” Larkin said. “Because when your gun is in your underwear drawer and you go to work, your underwear is no safer.”
To protect their guns, residents should buy a heavy safe that can’t be taken out of their home, Given said. That way, burglars won’t have access to firearms in the first place.
“(Burglars) don’t want to spend a lot of time in the house,” he said.”They want to quickly find what’s accessible. If your firearms are that accessible for the short time that (they’re) inside the residence, then that’s an issue.”
Not getting better
During an August interview, Larkin told the Review-Journal that the northwest was leading the valley in an overall spike of gun thefts.
“It has not gotten better,” she said Wednesday. “We’re on par with our numbers last year, if not a little bit more.”
The area has one of the valley’s largest populations — about 380,000 people in 100 square miles — which leads to a large number of stolen firearms, she said.
The northwest valley has traditionally had a large number of burglaries, Larkin said.
“Our crime is different, because it does affect people on a very personal level, being in their homes,” she said.
Larkin has been pleading directly with northwest residents about securing firearms. The task force posts on social media almost every day about responsible gun ownership, she said.
In March, Larkin’s area command released a video where she emphasized the then-100 stolen firearms in 2019.
“Unacceptable, northwest residents, totally unacceptable,” Larkin said in the video. “How do we have 100 stolen firearms out on the street in the hands of criminals who wish to do us harm? How can you sleep at night knowing those numbers?”
Kim Schoner, 49, a real estate agent who works from home in the northwest valley, sees people posting security footage of package thieves or would-be robbers nearly every day on local Facebook groups. Within the last month, someone tried to break into her house when she was inside alone, she said during an April interview.
“I don’t think they knew I was home,” she said. “I didn’t see who they were. I just went and turned on some music and made it kind of loud in here.”
Schoner said she moved from near Summerlin to her new neighborhood in the northwest valley about 18 months ago. She moved within the northwest area command’s jurisdiction, but her new neighborhood deeper into the northwest sees “more burglary action,” she said.
She has guns in her home, Schoner said. She said she wants to maintain easy access to firearms in case someone breaks in, and she doesn’t have children to worry about mishandling a gun.
“What good are they going to do if you’re home and somebody breaks in — that’s a tough one, I don’t know what to do about that,” she said about locking up her firearms.
While Larkin emphasized people’s rights to own guns, she said residents should take the time to keep them secure when they’re not at home. Ultimately, if residents take away burglars’ access to firearms, the number of stolen firearms that are sold in schools or used to commit violent crimes in other parts of the valley will decrease, she said.
“We the police can’t do this alone, and we will not be able to arrest our way out of this problem,” Larkin said.
Protecting firearms from thieves
To decrease stolen firearms, residents need to help officers by practicing responsible gun ownership, Metropolitan PoliceDepartment officials say.
— Buy a safe and make sure all firearms are inside and locked away when the house is unoccupied.
— Do not keep firearms in cars unattended.
— A gun safe should be heavy enough that someone can’t take it from your home. Gun boxes in cars are also unsafe.
— Security cameras and home alarm systems can deter burglars from targeting your home.
— National Rifle Association stickers in windows and hunting-related bumper stickers can alert would-be burglars that gunsmay be in the home.
— Lock houses and cars when unattended. Metro police Capt. Larkin said that in almost half of all burglary cases she sees,the burglar did not have to use force to break into a car or home, meaning it was unlocked or a window was open.