KUSA - The smash-and-grab at Pony Express Firearms in Parker last Saturday is the latest example of a growing and concerning crime trend in Colorado, according to officials.

"There has been an uptick," says John Risenhoover, a retired special agent with the ATF. "Without a doubt, we're seeing an uptick."

Deadly weapons are being stolen left and right in Colorado.

Risenhoover, who also helped launch the Denver Crime Gun and Intelligence Center, says criminals used to steal guns because they needed weapons.

That doesn't seem to be the only reason anymore.

"A lot of individuals will steal guns, not to commit any crimes but solely for financial gain," Risenhoover says.

It's become it's own category of crime. One firearm can be worth hundreds on the streets.

Pony Express Firearms is in the 18th Judicial District, where District Attorney George Brauchler says there has been a surge in gun thefts this year.

In June, three gun stores in and around the Littleton area were burglarized. The burglaries that took place at Colorado Gun Broker and Triple J Armory happened within 24 hours time. In the Triple J Armory burglary, investigators say the suspects rammed a car into the building. It's a nationally growing trend.

"We're seeing a lot of thefts where there are elaborate teams involved," Risenhoover says. "They'll actually come in, smash the vehicle and run into the store."
Brauchler also said guns were stolen from seven pawn shops in just about two months time.

More than 75 percent of guns recovered by law enforcement officials are stolen, according to the ATF.

However, that doesn't mean it will result in higher crime rates.

"In reality, 99.99% of all guns will never be used in a crime," Risenhoover said. "It's not gang members stealing so they can go out and use them. They're gang members who are going and stealing them for financial gain."

Risenhoover says the stolen guns most likely be used for personal reasons, not crimes, but that doesn't mean the potential for danger disappears. Many of the stolen weapons are often not recovered which can make them very difficult to track.

Risenhoover, along with other law enforcement officials, fear the spike in gun thefts won't go away any time soon.

"The more law enforcement restricts it and tries to keep guns out of the wrong peoples hands, the more they'll try other techniques to come across guns," Risenhoover explained.

Officials say gun shops can take preventative measures to make crimes of opportunity more difficult by doing things like updating surveillance equipment or storing guns in safe places.

In 2015, the ATF reported 56 stolen firearms from licensed dealers in our state.

So far this year, thieves have already stolen more than 60 guns with two months left.