Police are still concerned with a rash of handguns stolen from unlocked vehicles even after a group of teenagers responsible for several break-ins were taken into custody last week.
Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste said officers arrested a group of teenagers after a brief vehicle pursuit on Thursday, Feb. 1. The vehicle had been reported stolen from a home on Pine Court a day before, where one of the juveniles had found it unlocked with the keys inside, according to police.
Battiste said the chase ended when the stolen vehicle left the roadway and wrecked, and while three of the suspects were captured, one was able to escape on foot.
“Pulling on door handles” looking for vehicles to break into was a routine practice for the group, according to Battiste, who said that after searching one of the suspect’s homes, a total of 13 guns were recovered — several of which have since been confirmed stolen.
In addition to one unidentified juvenile, police arrested Daniel Barrani, 18, and 19-year-old Christopher Shawn Wyatt at the scene, though Andrew Kossick, 18, was able to escape on foot. Battiste said police are prepared to issue a warrant for Kossick’s arrest, but as of Feb. 7, authorities have still been unable to locate him.
Altogether, the group of teenagers is believed to be connected to nearly a dozen recent burglaries and has so far amassed 12 charges for receiving stolen property, three for burglary and eight for breaking and entering into a motor vehicle.
At a press conference last week, Battiste took the opportunity to once again encourage the citizens of Mobile to keep their car doors locked, especially if they contain weapons. He said 80 percent of the vehicle burglaries MPD responds to involve unlocked cars and trucks.
“This is why we constantly try to remind the community to please lock your doors because a lot of weapons that are ending up on our streets are the result of these breaking and enterings,” he said. “Often times people will say: ‘if I lock my door, they’re going to bust my window,’ but if they bust your window, there’s an opportunity for us to make an apprehension.”
Battiste went on to compare a neighbor that’s known to have unlocked cars to an active fishing whole, adding that when crooks find success on a street, they’ll eventually be back.
Locked doors aren’t a guarantee against a vehicle break-in, though. In fact, as of November, the wanted suspect, Kossick, broke into an unattended MPD cruiser and made off with two firearms.
He was later arrested and charged with breaking and entering and possession of a controlled substance, but has since been released. Based on jail records, the other two suspects arrested last week do not appear to have any prior charges in Mobile County.
Despite last week’s arrests, Battiste acknowledged there are still a large problem with stolen guns winding up on the streets of Mobile. According to the MPD’s data, 1,158 guns were reported stolen in 2017, and so far, only 245 of those have been recovered.
Battiste noted that when guns are unsecured in people’s homes and wind up injuring someone or involved in a subsequent crime, that prosecutors can consider possible charges for criminal negligence. However, he stops short of saying he’d take a similar approach with vehicle owners.