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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Violent crime has taken a toll on Memphis this year, and police believe one of the problems is that too many stolen guns are on the streets.

WREG-TV uncovered data that shows thieves have swiped thousands of weapons from cars that were broken into.

More than 1,200 guns were reported stolen from vehicles this year. The total in mid-December already surpassed last year’s count, the second highest in seven years.

MPD’s crime tracker shows so far in December nearly 500 vehicles from across the city were hit.
That’s just a fraction of the more than 7,000 thefts from motor vehicles reported this year.

MPD’s data shows a thief finds a gun in just about every five vehicles broken into.

“They steal the gun out of the car, and they commit homicides,” Memphis Police Col. Darrell Sheffield said. “They’re not just sellable, they’re usable. They’re useable for things we don’t want to happen.”

Police say in April alone, when the city’s safer at home order was in effect, 100 guns were stolen. Additionally, data shows 40% were taken between June and September.

And now, December is on track to have the most guns stolen from vehicles. In the first 13 days, there are 93 reports.

“It’s happening a lot of times in shopping centers where we have a lot of cars,” Sheffield said.

Map on the left shows car thefts in December 2020. On the right is car thefts so far this year.

Sheffield says hotel and motel parking lots have also become hot spots. Additionally, he says if you leave a gun in the car, it needs to secured.

“Any responsible gun owner does not want their weapon used on an innocent party,” Sheffield said.

In 2014, a Tennessee law allowed legal gun owners to bring their firearm in cars without a permit. Since the law went into effect, data shows more guns have been stolen.

Top MPD leaders say they’ll continue to push for the law to be changed.