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."