Arizona -(Ammoland.com)- Long ago, in a far away country (2017 in California) a dying city locked treasure in a forgotten vault, to be handed over to the new, larger regime. The treasure was inventoried then ignored for several months. During that time, from March 6, 2017, to August 31, 2017, the treasure, 23 Beretta .40 caliber handguns and 8 Glock .40 caliber handguns, disappeared. No one admits knowing who purloined the treasure or where it has gone. At the end of March 2018, the city gave up on finding the treasure on its own, without controversy. They offered a reward close to the market value of the firearms stolen. From nbclosangeles.com:
Authorities announced a $10,000 reward Tuesday for information that could lead them to whoever was responsible for stealing 31 police guns from the old Compton City Hall building.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says the guns were probably stolen sometime between March 6 and August 31, 2017. The guns, which belonged to the Compton Police Department, were being stored in a vault at the old city hall building at 600 N. Alameda St. after the department was dismantled in 2000 and duties overtaken by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The LASD conducted an inventory of the guns in March 2017. The Compton City Council, “determined LASD should take control of the firearms until a final adjuration was made on whether the Compton Police Department would be restored,” the ATF said.
The Compton Police Department was disbanded in 2000, amid back and forth charges of corruption. Compton has retained a reputation for corruption, and for one of the highest murder rates in the United States.
The Los Angeles Time indicates the pistols were part of 198 firearms in the vault, and the pistols were missing when the guns arrived at the Sheriff’s department in at the end of August. From the latimes.com:
Ginger Colbrun, an ATF spokeswoman in Los Angeles, said a total of 198 guns were stored in a safe in a municipal building. In August, the city decided to turn the weapons over to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. However, when the guns arrived at the Sheriff’s Department on Aug. 31, an inventory found 31 guns were missing.
Sheriff’s and Compton city officials notified the ATF and an investigation began In September. The guns were last inventoried in March 2017, Colbrun said, so there is a considerable window when they could have been stolen.
Officials are not certain if the pistols were from the old police force, or had been purchased since the year 2000. Many people may have has access to the vault. No one knows who had access to the combination lock. From sacbee.com:
The firearms were stored in a vault with heavy metal doors and a combination lock, reported KABC.
“There were several people at the time who were working who had the combination,” Rhambo told the station. “I had access to the combination. But over the years I have no idea the number over 17 years who still had access to that combination.”
The vacant former city hall had no security cameras, KABC reported.
With that level of accountability and security, it seems strange that any firearms were left to be shipped to the L.A. Sheriffs Department. Over a year has gone by without any of the pistols being found at a crime scene or in the possession of someone taken into custody by the police.
Stolen guns are not recovered very often. Police guns are usually given a higher priority.
An informed speculation is that they went south of the border. Guns are in demand there, by nearly everyone. The cartels want them, the embattled people want them, and the police and army want them. Pistols are highly prized in dangerous areas of the world, and some of the countries South of the United States border are very dangerous indeed.
One of the advantages of smuggling guns south of the border is it is a good way to break the trail of possession of the stolen guns. It is unlikely the Mexican authorities will have the time or inclination to attempt to trace back the ownership of a Beretta found in a cartel stash of weapons, or confiscated at the scene of a pitched battle between cartels or between police and cartels.
One of the things shown in the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal was that the chain of custody of guns stops at the border.
The police and Mexico’s own scarcity of quality handguns makes it likely that recovered pistols will be treated as loot instead of contraband. A quality pistol is may be worth two to five months wages of a Mexican police officer, on the black market.
Guns are prized in the black market of Los Angeles as well, but the prices are higher south of the border, and the special attention paid to guns stolen from the City of Compton or the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department (not clear who, if anyone, claims ownership of these pistols), ends at the border.
©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
About Dean Weingarten
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.