More than 350 firearms have been lost or stolen from local and federal police agencies headquartered in the Washington, D.C., area since 2011, according to an investigation by the News4 I-Team.
In many cases, the firearms have not yet been recovered.
A compilation of police records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveals a series stolen or lost firearms at large and small police agencies. At least 35 of them were taken or lost from the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., since 2011. Twenty-eight others were lost or stolen from Prince George’s County Police. Ten were reported missing or stolen from Alexandria police, while eight were lost or stolen from Virginia State Police during the time period.
In a rising number of cases, the firearms were stolen from police vehicles. Six of the seven firearms taken from Fairfax County Police were listed as taken from cruisers or officers’ personal vehicles. A firearm stolen from the car of an off-duty Rockville police officer was later seized from a teenager on campus at Albert Einstein High School in Kensington, according to police reports.
The teenager from whom the firearm was seized is facing federal criminal charges.
Firearms experts with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said thieves often steal firearms from vehicles from both private citizens and law enforcement.
“Individuals who are known to posses firearms legally become targets,” ATF investigator Kevin O’Keefe said.
Some high-profile thefts have yet to be solved. FBI agents told the I-Team they have not yet located a pair of agency firearms and other tactical gear stolen from the vehicle of a D.C. field office employee in summer 2016.
Calvert County Sheriff’s officials said they have not determined the rightful owner of a cache of stolen police weapons found in the possession of a man they arrested in March.
Rockville Police, from whom two guns were stolen in April, said they have recently stiffened their policies to prevent future thefts. Acting Police Chief Robert Rappoport said officers must now store firearms in a locked case when keeping those guns in a vehicle trunk. “It'll add another level of security to the weapons," he said. "If a vehicle's trunk is compromised, there's one extra level to ensure the weapon can't be removed from the trunk."
A review of reports from federal inspectors general shows federal agencies also lost guns by the dozens in recent years. An October 2017 report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General said federal homeland security agents lost at least 228 firearms since 2014.
“Personnel did not follow policy or used poor judgment when safeguarding these assets,” the report said.
In a formal response to the report, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it would offer additional training to staff to reduce the risk of future gun thefts or losses.
Reported by Scott MacFarlane, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Jeff Piper.