ATF: Gun store thefts on the rise as thieves break into Sharonville Target World

If you go by the crime statistics, the market for stolen guns in the tri-state and across the country is growing. (WKRC)

SHARONVILLE, Ohio (WKRC)- If you go by the crime statistics, the market for stolen guns in the Tri-State and across the country is growing. This past weekend, dozens more handguns were stolen after thieves hit the Target World in Sharonville, making it the third gun store robbery in the tri-state this year.

The burglars busted through the back door to get into the Target World early Sunday morning. The thieves only had one type of gun in mind and didn't try and steal any rifles.

"Just smashed the display cases and took the pistols out of there," Clayton Merrill, the Resident Agent in Charge of the Cincinnati Field Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives.

At least five people stole 50 firearms.

Merrill has been working in the Cincinnati Field Office of the ATF for the past year.

This is the fourth firearm store break-in he's handled.

"I'd like to believe it's a result of [the fact that] it's getting harder for criminals to get guns so they have to take these measures and do burglaries," Merrill said.

The ATF says burglaries of gun shops nationwide are up more than 70% since 2013. The number of firearms stolen has jumped from 3,300 in 2013 to more than 7,800 last year.

"You really don't know until they get recovered by local police and what kind of activity they were involved in," Merrill said.

North of the Cincinnati area, Montgomery County has seen a rash of gun store break-ins. Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer has said some of those thefts are tied to juvenile gangs.

Merril says his office hasn't found evidence of gangs.

"I haven't seen that. It doesn't mean that's not happening. I don't know what the situation is in this current burglary, which could be gang related. We don't know at this point," Merrill said.

Merrill says they work with firearm dealers to make the buildings as secure as possible.

"But the bottom line is it's tough to stop determination and they found a way here. You have the cameras, the alarms, the response time of the police and they just slipped through the cracks," Merrill said.

The ATF is working with the Sharonville Police Department to investigate the incident.

The ATF and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, are announcing a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the burglary of Target World.

ATF and NSSF have partnered to offer a reward of up to $10,000.

Anyone having information about this burglary should contact ATF at 1-800-ATF-GUNS (800-283-4867).

Individuals may also email ATFTips@atf.gov, or contact ATF through its website at www.atf.gov/contact/atf-tips.

Tips may also be submitted by visiting www.reportit.com.

Tipsters may remain anonymous.

This reward is part of a larger national cooperative initiative between the NSSF and ATF in which NSSF matches ATF rewards in cases involving the theft of firearms from federally licensed retailers.

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