ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- Keeping weapons out of the hands of criminals has been an uphill battle for police in the St. Louis area, with more than 50 guns being reported stolen already in 2015.
One gun advocate blames businesses that don't allow licensed gun owners to carry their firearms inside their buildings, forcing owners to leave their guns in their cars and making them an easy target for thieves.
Firearms instructor Michael Meyer says downtown businesses should take a closer look at policies prohibiting firearms on their premises due to the large amount of thefts that have already taken place this year.
Forty of the 54 guns reported stolen in St. Louis City in January were taken out of parked cars.
As recently as this week, the suspect in an officer involved shooting in Dutchtown had a stolen gun in his possession. That gun was reported stolen, but Chief Sam Dotson says there is no requirement in Missouri for a gun owner to report a theft.
"Criminals know that if you go to a baseball game, or a hockey game, or a football game, you can't take your weapon in," said Chief Dotson. "They'll break into multiple cars looking for guns. They find one out of ten, it's like winning the lottery."
Meyer believes allowing those who are licensed to carry to have their firearm with them instead of keeping it in their car could be a start to tackling crime downtown.
"I think if the no guns sign would go down, I think crime would go down," said Meyer."Criminals would know people in that business may be armed, they won't bother that place."
Hot-spot policing took six weapons off the street last week, and gun theft is a major focus of St. Louis Police.