HPD asks fans not to bring guns to Astros watch parties following string of car thefts

The roof of Minute Maid ballpark is wide open showing a portion of the Houston downtown skyline during an exhibition baseball game between the Houston Astros and the Kansas City Royals Saturday, April 4, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan) (Pat Sullivan, Associated Press)

HOUSTON – The Houston Police Department is asking fans who plan to attend Houston Astros watch parties at Minute Maid Park to either leave their guns at home or make a plan to secure their firearms.

Earlier this week, several guns were stolen from vehicles in the surrounding area of Minute Maid Park. Police are asking if fans do bring their guns downtown, make sure they have a gun lock.

“The problem with Houston right now, we have a lot of cars, therefore we have a lot of cars getting broken into,” HPD Lt. Tolan Harding told KPRC 2. “Crooks are learning that certain locations such as the Minute Maid Park won’t allow people in with handguns, so they’re leaving their handguns in their car. The crooks are targeting those vehicles specifically when they are parked in and around Minute Maid Park looking just for handguns.”

Lt. Harding said investigators have learned the car thieves are leaving everything else behind and only taking the handguns in vehicles in the surrounding area.

HPD has seen an increase in gun thefts in more recent years with the relaxation of Texas handgun laws since people are able to take their handguns with them wherever they go, according to Harding.

“They’re targeting firearms to use in other crimes and to resale,” he said. “If they find a handgun with no association to them, they can use it in a crime, such as a robbery or a shooting or they can sell it to somebody else and make very good money on it. They may be selling it to a person who is not allowed to have a handgun legally and they can charge a premium on that.”

Harding said a lot of the guns stolen during these car thefts are usually left unsecured, such as under the seat or the glove box.

During Game 1 of the Houston Astros series, one of the suspects HPD arrested was in possession of seven guns. At least five of those firearms had been stolen at night from people attending the game, Harding said.

Which vehicles are mostly targeted?

Harding says those who have large pickup trucks and vehicles with pro-Second Amendment stickers, thin blue line stickers or gun manufacturing stickers on their windows, believing those vehicles will have guns in them.

HPD recommends using a gun safe lockbox that can be cabled down to the seat. It is a temporary measure that provides more theft resistance than just leaving your handgun inside your vehicle by trying to hide it under the seat or glove box. It is one of the first places criminals look when searching for a gun.

It is also recommended to plan ahead, if you know you are going somewhere where guns are not allowed, be sure to have a gun safe lock box.

The police department will have patrol units watching the area during Thursday night’s watch party.

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