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Reports of stolen guns on the rise in Denton

Two teenagers who recently were accused of robbing pizza delivery drivers in Denton were found with three firearms and ammunition from previous burglaries in October, according to police. 

Victor Chairez, 17, and Rolando Olvera, 18, have been charged with robbing three delivery drivers and burglarizing four homes in Denton, all in October. Police said they plan to file a fifth burglary charge soon. 

Victor ChairezDenton Police Department
Victor Chairez
Denton Police Department

Officers found the stolen weapons, which included two Remington rifles and a Walther handgun, in the south Denton home where they had been staying at the time, according to the teenagers' arrest affidavit. 

The stolen guns are part of a growing trend of firearm theft reports in the city since 2014, according to statistics from the Denton Police Department. The 25 guns that were reported stolen in 2014 gradually rose to 65 in 2016, the data shows. 

So far this year, 66 guns — shotguns, rifles and handguns — have been reported stolen. 

"We've always had issues with gun theft," Denton police Sgt. Danny Fletcher said. "The majority of our gun thefts come from motor vehicle burglaries. People leave firearms in their glove boxes and center consoles. With residential burglaries, it's not uncommon, but it's normally not the items that are targeted." 

Rolando OlveraDenton Police Department
Rolando Olvera
Denton Police Department

Usually, he said, the stolen guns wind up in the hands of someone who wants to use them for criminal purposes. 

"Most of the time, they're sold on the street or traded for other property," said Fletcher, who oversees the department's major crimes unit. 

The stolen firearms from 2014 to date were taken during a robbery, a burglary or a basic theft. 

A robbery includes use of intimidation, force or threats while burglary requires unlawful entry into a structure or vehicle with the intent to commit a theft. 

Handguns are by far the most commonly stolen firearm in the city. The data shows that 11 of the 25 firearms that were reported stolen in 2014 were handguns, but 33 of the 45 firearms reported stolen in 2015 were handguns. 

In 2016, 42 of the 65 stolen firearms were handguns. And so far this year, 39 handguns were reported stolen out of 66 guns. 

In total, 125 handguns, 41 rifles and 35 shotguns have been reported stolen in that time period. 

Chris Womack, the police department's new crime analyst, emphasized that the data is compiled based on incident reports, not arrests. In other words, the number of stolen firearms could change depending on the outcome of an investigation.  

"This is today's snapshot, but the ongoing nature of the investigations can always change our data," said Womack, a civilian employee who was hired in September. 

Statewide data on the number of guns stolen in burglaries, robberies and thefts was not immediately available Thursday. But Womack, who previously worked as a crime analyst at the larger Arlington Police Department, said she used to get hundreds of stolen firearm reports every month. 

While the number of stolen firearms is rising, she said the data doesn't jump off the page for a city of Denton's size. 

"One hundred and twenty-five [stolen handguns] is not much," she said. "If I plotted this number against the population increase in Denton (128,320 in 2014 to 133,808 in 2016), it's proportionate." 

JULIAN GILL can be reached at 940-566-6882.