Chief Popwell didn’t exude anger or annoyance. He’s a professional, after all. But, you wouldn’t be able to blame him if he was a bit frustrated.
Someone or some people are on a crime streak in Niceville. In the last two months – they’ve stolen seven guns out of cars within city limits.
“Because the city has the reputation of being one of the safest in the state, [people] take things for granted,” Popwell said in an interview with Mid Bay News tuesday night.
The thefts are a very real threat to public safety, even in a city named one of Florida’s safest.
The stolen firearms present a very real operational problem for Niceville Police Officers, according to Popwell. “Because we’ve had a rash of vehicle break-ins – guns are on the street that shouldn’t be there,” the chief said, “They are, obviously, used by people who are not obeying the law.”
Stealing a firearm is a felony in the State of Florida and can come with a 15-year sentence and a $10,000 fine.
So, who is the most likely group of people to steal guns? Certainly not people used to hard time, according to Chief Popwell. “A lot of car burglaries are done by younger people. It’s a crime of opportunity. They’ll pull a door handle and if the door opens, they will take whatever is in there.”
A survey by the US Bureau of Justice notes on average just 6% of people in prison for a crime involving a gun stole it themselves. However, 43% of prisoners reported getting the gun they used in their crime from the ‘underground market.’
“Felons in possession of firearms shouldn’t be plea bargained out. That’s the only way you are going to make it so that [the law] has some teeth,” Chief Popwell said, “Right now, there is no real punishment for them to be in possession of a firearm. They are going to keep doing it. So, until you put some teeth into it and actually start holding people accountable for being in possession of a firearm, this is going to continue.”
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