LITTLETON, Colo. -- A gun store in Littleton was targeted by burglars for the third time in less than a year. The latest incident at Triple J Armory off County Line Road happened early Wednesday morning.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is assisting in the investigation.
The federal agency said the smash-and-grab burglary not only put deadly weapons in the hands of criminals, but it’s also part of a growing trend in Colorado and nationwide.
Last year, firearms thefts from gun dealers hit a 10-year high.
On Wednesday, Triple J Armory owners worked to repair the damage done when burglars rammed a stolen Jeep through concrete posts, a metal security fence and through the front doors to gain access to the hundreds of weapons inside.
“I mean anytime guns are illegally placed on the street is a concern to the community as well as law enforcement,” Littleton police Cmdr. Trent Cooper said.
This was the third time burglars attempted the smash-and-grab tactic at this same store, and the second time they were successful. In June, they got away with 29 firearms.
“Most of the guns that were taken in our previous burglaries have not shown up yet. Some have been recovered, some have been used in other crimes,” Cooper said.
That’s what has ATF on high alert.
“Guns serve almost as a form of currency in many gangs. You can barter for drugs or for favors, they give them to their criminal friends and associates, they use them in other crimes,” ATF spokeswoman Lisa Meiman said.
In Colorado, the number of guns being stolen from dealers has more than quadrupled in three years.
In 2014, 56 guns were grabbed in store break-ins. In 2015, that number more than doubled to 121 guns stolen. And in 2016, 273 guns were taken from gun dealers.
“The most important thing is these guns are destined for crimes, they are not used as trophies, they are not going to be used for hunting, they are going to be used in future crimes and potentially hurt people and maybe even cause death,” Meiman said.
Police said Triple J Armory owners have already increased security measures but some are no match to a 2-ton vehicle.