Search continues for rifle thieves

January 7, 2009 1:21:47 PM PST
Several law enforcement agencies in Contra Costa County are looking for weapons that were stolen right out of their own patrol cars from vehicles parked in locked-up department lots.

The suspects are elusive and brazen. Despite a raid Tuesday morning, there are still no arrests and no weapons recovered.

The fence in the back of the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department yard in Martinez has been repaired, but the weapons are still out there somewhere. A gaping hole in the fence let the thieves get in. They then broke into several patrol cars and stole a 12-gauge shotgun and three semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifles.

The same night of the Martinez break in, thieves hit the sheriff's department yard in Richmond and grabbed a 12-gauge shotgun.

Investigators don't know who did it, but they think they know who didn't do it:

"We don't have any indication that this is affiliated with any type of gang or terrorist organization, but as I've said before, law enforcement is a potential victim too," said Captain Daniel Terry with sheriff's office.

Deputies returned to Martinez Wednesday morning with rifles and bulletproof vests in hand after a raid at a house on 45th Street in Oakland, with the assistance of Oakland police, the FBI and ATF. Terry says the burglars knew what they were doing and seemed to know sheriff's department procedure when it comes to leaving weapons in vehicles.

"It is our practice -- in only cars that are prepared for use, or are being employed at the time -- to be outfitted with firearms," said Captain Terry.

There are no surveillance cameras at either station, and neither is staffed 24/7. Captain Terry says he would love to have cameras or a deputy in the parking lot, but there is no money in sight for either of those items.

About three weeks ago at the CHP yard in Martinez, the very same thing happened. In fact, four times within the last six months law enforcement vehicles have been broken into and weapons have been stolen.