OCSO: Unlocked cars lead to stolen vehicles, firearms trend

Savannah Vasquez
A suspect attempts to break into a car in Mary Esther in January. [OCSO/CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

The Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office is calling for the public's help.

Since the first of the year, 98 vehicles have been burglarized and 91 of them were unlocked. In addition to being unlocked, the Sheriff's Office reported that of 26 vehicles reported stolen this year, half of them (13) had the keys left inside.

Between Monday night and Tuesday afternoon, eight vehicles were burglarized and one was stolen in the Destin area alone. All of those vehicles were unlocked. Cars reported in the one-night Destin burglary spree were: four on Dolphin Estate Court, one on Forest Street, one on Primrose Drive, and two on Drifting Sand Trail.

"Typically, about 90 percent are unlocked," Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Michele Nicholson said of the burglary trend. "It's a crime of opportunity and it's a preventable crime, so we are just pleading with the public: Don't make it easy for burglars and thieves to take your valuables or steal your car."

More alarming than the unlocked vehicles burglarized in Destin is that two of them contained firearms, Nicholson said.

Last summer between June and July, 145 vehicles were reported burglarized in Okaloosa County. Of that number, 126 vehicles were unlocked and 23 guns were reported stolen. Only one firearm has been recovered.

Nicholson said the Sheriff's Office is trying to notify the public of the severity of the situationd because earlier this year Mobile, Alabama, Police Officer Sean Tuder was shot and killed with a stolen gun while on duty.

"This is a national issue, really," Nicholson said. "It's an ongoing issue year in and year out. We are just kind of at our wits end on trying to get the public to take those steps to avoid becoming a victim. The Mobile police officer that was murdered was killed with a gun stolen out of an unlocked car."