Gun thefts and drug dealing are fueling the lawlessness behind Orlando’s record-setting year of violence, reports the Orlando Sentinel. “For every five we take off the streets, more get taken from pawnshops, gun shops, and homes,” said Orlando police spokeswoman Sgt. Barbara Jones. “We even had an AR-15 [assault rifle] stolen from one of our city police cars,” she said. It is impossible to know how many stolen guns were involved in the 39 killings in Orlando and 44 killings in unincorporated Orange County so far this year. Many murder weapons have not been recovered.
Cops on the street say the link is obvious. “We know they’re stolen, and we’re not recovering them at a fast pace,” said Lt. Laura Houston, night watch commander. “You know how dangerous this is?” Gun thefts are so common that a 2002 Orlando Sentinel report found that more guns were stolen in Orange County in 2001 — 680 — than in the entire state of Massachusetts during that time. Police have responded to the unprecedented surge in violence by assigning 30 “tactical” officers to target the city’s worst criminals. “They are the answers to this city’s violence,” Houston said. “I have a feeling these ‘Tac’ squads are going to be getting a lot more of these guns, too.”