Myrtle Beach police address stolen guns on city streets

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) - The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says last year more than 18,000 guns were lost or stolen from licensed gun stores nationwide.

The numbers in South Carolina grew drastically in 2016 compared to the previous year, and it's put a large burden on law enforcement.

Myrtle Beach Police say the stolen guns end up on the streets of the city, and they're usually in the wrong hands. A new crime trend police are tracking in Myrtle Beach isn't just with criminals stealing guns from stores, and that means guns owners need to be more responsible with where they're keeping firearms.

Police say a stroll down Ocean Boulevard isn't as safe as it once was.

"Ocean Boulevard, in that particular area at night, is no longer family friendly," admits Myrtle Beach Police Chief Warren Gall.

During Tuesday's city council meeting, Myrtle Beach leaders talked about the number of stolen guns out on the streets, a problem police say they've been dealing with more than normal lately.

"A common thing that we're seeing is individuals leaving their guns in their car and then having their cars broken into and their guns are getting stolen," reports Lt. Joey Crosby.

Crosby says officers need gun owners to be responsible because leaving your door unlocked with a firearm inside is like asking for it to be stolen.

"You have to be responsible with your gun," urges Crosby. "Coming with that responsibility means it's locked and safely secure."

The Horry County Police Department says it's also seen an increase in stolen guns. Spokesperson Krystal Dotson says they're working to increase their presence throughout the county and using community outreach programs to get the guns off the streets.

The problem doesn't stop at Horry County lines. Officials are seeing an increase in stolen guns across the state. The ATF says there were 97 firearms stolen from licensed gun shops in South Carolina in 2015, but last year, that number skyrocketed to 561.

About 200 of those guns were stolen from Five Star Gun in Longs during Hurricane Matthew.

"We encourage the owner to have the serial number and the make and the model of the weapon," says Crosby. "We're then able to take that information, put it into the database so if an officer comes across that gun, whether it be through a traffic stop or through an investigation, they run a serial number and we're able to identify that as being a stolen gun."

Crosby says the police department is trying to use social media to reach gun owners to encourage them to lock up their weapons so that they don't end on the streets involved in violent crimes.

Crosby says while investigators have no specific reason to believe the string of recent shootings in Myrtle Beach were committed with stolen guns, those investigations are not over.

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