Hoover Police Department (HPD) Chief Nick Derzis is warning the public about the dangers of leaving firearms in unlocked vehicles.

"The Hoover police department wants everyone to know we've got a growing problem," Derzis said. "The unfortunate problem is car break-ins. Specifically, one particular item that's being stolen: guns."

Derzis said most car break-ins happen to automobiles that are left unlocked overnight. Out of 335 car break-ins in Hoover last year, 113 firearms were stolen. The majority of those vehicles were unlocked.

"We've got individuals that show up in a particular neighborhood. They walk down streets, and they check door handles," Derzis said. "If the door handle is locked, they go to the next vehicle. If it's unlocked, what do they do? They get in it, see what's there, and, unfortunately, the majority of the time, they find wallets, they find purses, they find electronics, they find money, and what else? Guns."

Stolen guns are used in a significant number of violent crimes, and many law enforcement offices have introduced similar campaigns to heighten awareness of gun and vehicle security.

"Let's be serious; the guns that we're losing are not going to personal ... collections," Derzis said. "The guns that we're losing are being used in other crimes."

Derzis reported that 480 guns were stolen from cars in the previous five years. Other cities have been dealing with this problem across the United States.

Alabama is in the national top 10 in lost or stolen guns. According to Statista, Alabama is ranked 10th in lost and stolen guns, having reported 357 lost or stolen firearms in 2020. California beats Alabama in this regard, coming in seventh place with 405 lost or stolen firearms, despite Alabama's far less stringent gun laws.

"We don't leave our iPhones in the car," Derzis said. "But we leave loaded guns in the car."

Last weekend, HPD reported seven separate car break-ins, two in Bluff Park and five in Ross Bridge. One handgun was stolen.

On social media, HPD is launching two campaigns using the hashtags #LockitorLoseit and #9pmrouitine to remind gun owners to make sure their guns are in a safe place before they go to bed.

Derzis said that those who engage with HPD's Twitter or Facebook pages would be able to sign up for texts at 9 p.m. to remind them to lock their car doors and put valuables away.

"We hope that these two campaigns will actually, next year, help us," Derzis said.

The HPD will also be giving out free gun locks to Hoover residents at the department so gun owners can keep their guns safe when they bring them inside at night.

"The guns that we're losing are being used in other crimes," Derzis said. "That's the realization.

"…Please, lock your car. Please, don't leave your guns in your car. And for heaven's sake, if you're going to [leave them in your car], please lock them up."

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