Starkville Daily News - - FO­RUM -

Wat­son said the larger is­sue for deputies is the amount of firearms that are hit­ting the street and are in the hands of peo­ple who have al­ready showed the propen­sity to steal. He said now they're armed and still have the po­ten­tial to steal.

With the in­flux of stolen firearms, Wat­son said they are find­ing stolen firearms on a reg­u­lar ba­sis that are not only stolen form Ok­tibbeha County, but are stolen from other coun­ties. He said firearms stolen from Ok­tibbeha County are also be­ing dis­trib­uted to other ar­eas.

"I think that not only puts home­own­ers at risk, it puts po­lice of­fi­cers at risk." Wat­son said. "They're not just stay­ing here, they're mov­ing out away from here too."

Right now, Wat­son said the ju­ve­nile to young adult age group from 15 to 18 and 19 are the ones they are deal­ing with the most right now, more than any­one else.

He said adults are prob­a­bly the ones en­cour­ag­ing ju­ve­niles to steal, be­cause they are get­ting some type of pay­ment for the firearms stolen, and the penalty is not hefty.

Wat­son said the penalty for ju­ve­niles is to be sent to train­ing school, and is not

near the sen­tence an adult would re­ceive.

The sen­tence an adult can re­ceive for break­ing into an un­oc­cu­pied house is three to 25 years, while an auto bur­glary is a max­i­mum of seven years.

He said if the per­son ar­rested is not a con­victed felon, or doesn't have a pre­vi­ous crim­i­nal his­tory, that per­son is not go­ing to re­ceive the mid­dle of that penalty. He said the pun­ish­ment could be a com­bi­na­tion of things like pro­ba­tion or house ar­rest.

"I think the fear of go­ing to the pen­i­ten­tiary is not there for them yet," Wat­son said. "I think the con­se­quences are a lot less, so I think that plays a pretty good part in why we're see­ing that uptick."

As for con­cen­trated ar­eas where the bur­glar­ies oc­cur, Wat­son said apart­ment com­plexes, es­pe­cially stu­dent apart­ment com­plexes are the num­ber one hit place. He said also tight sub­di­vi­sions are a tar­get.

One of the prob­lems Wat­son said his de­part­ment en­coun­ters is­sues while pa­trolling, be­cause if there is any­one in the area, there is a huge chance the per­son lives in the area and a small chance they're steal­ing.

"They're pretty con­cen­trated to­gether with a lot

of op­por­tu­ni­ties," Wat­son said. "The prob­lem for us as po­lice of­fi­cers is we can ride those apart­ment com­plexes all night long, but if you see a guy walk­ing, quite frankly you just see a guy walk­ing."

Wat­son said the best tools the sher­iff's of­fice has for catch­ing these folks, are the cit­i­zens who are out at the same time and don't hes­i­tate to call in if there is some­thing sus­pi­cious go­ing on.

Wat­son said deputies rarely see stolen firearms be­ing sold in pawn shops, and are nor­mally found dur­ing rou­tine pa­trols.

"We see just about all the guns that we re­cover turn up on the street ei­ther in an­other crime, or in a sit­u­a­tion like a traf­fic stop," Wat­son said.

The ob­jects fre­quently stolen are firearms, lap­tops and iPads.

"Those are the hard­est things for us to in­ter­dict," Wat­son said.

Wat­son en­cour­ages res­i­dents who have firearms and other elec­tron­ics to take pic­tures of the item, se­rial num­bers, and to down­load the find my iPad ap­pli­ca­tion. He said the more in­for­ma­tion he and the deputies have, the eas­ier it will be to lo­cate what was stolen.

With weapons seized, Wat­son said they can match weapons through a data­base to help track pur­chase his­tory of the firearm. The other two op­tions for the de­part­ment is for a judge to or­der sale of the weapons, which the money would be turned over to the de­part­ment or they are de­stroyed by be­ing grounded up.

Wat­son said with the help of res­i­dents, they can help pre­vent other crimes from hap­pen­ing and solve mul­ti­ple crimes with just one ar­rest.

"Of­ten times when we make an ar­rest like this it not only just leads to the one, but it may lead to six, seven, eight, nine or more," Wat­son said. "The more we know, the bet­ter chance we've got to solve it."

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