ORLANDO, Fla. – An AR-15 semi-automatic rifle was stolen when someone broke into an unmarked Orlando Police Department car and six other vehicles early Tuesday morning, authorities said.
Police were called to Lake Nona Water Mark Apartments at 5:01 a.m. after seven car burglaries were reported. In every instance but one, the car windows were shattered.
The rear window was shattered on the unmarked Orlando police car and an AR-15 and the gun mount locking device were stolen, according to a news release. Officials said the gun was properly secured and the vehicle had an alarm system that was armed.
It's likely the cars were burglarized after midnight, Orlando police said. Details on what was stolen from the other vehicles were not released.
"I leave my door unlocked here, because you wouldn't think that a place like this would get broken into," said Jacob Mathis, who said he and his brother live next door to the officer.
They said the sergeant spent Tuesday morning warning his neighbors about the importance of bringing valuables inside and keeping their cars locked.
This marks the second time an Orlando police officer has had a weapon stolen from a locked car since the beginning of the year.
In January, another officer had his UNP-45 submachine gun stolen along with six loaded magazines from a locked patrol car.
His SWAT uniform and other gear were later found at another apartment complex.
A day later, a Tavares police officer's marked patrol car was broken into, and that department lost an AR-15 rifle.
"In the short term, officers have been instructed to remove all firearms from unmarked vehicles at the end of their shifts. OPD is working on a long-term solution," Orlando police said.
They said they're currently looking for a long-term solution to the problem.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS.
Burglars often use a special tool to silently break into vehicles. Click here to see a demonstration of how that tool works from News 6 reporter Erik von Ancken.
What can you do to prevent a car break-in? Follow these tips:
Keep everything locked up
The most important thing is to lock your car as soon as you get out of it. It may be simple, but thieves can enter your car in a split second.
Remove the keys from the ignition
Removing your keys will help keep thieves at bay when an issue arises. Also, make sure to make sure that you do not leave your car running.
Close up windows and sunroofs
An open window could be an open invitation to anyone who is looking to break into your car. Also, an open window could affect the way a car alarm operates and disable the alarm.
Check your surroundings
Before you park your car, make sure to check your surroundings. Being vigilant could help you or anyone who is parking next to you. What should you look for? Park in a well-lit area, if you are parking at night. Make sure that you check around your vehicle for anything that looks suspicious.
Stash it before you park
If you are going to hide something under your seat or in the back seat of your car, do so before you park, preventing thieves from observing your hiding spot before you park. Make sure to keep valuables out of sight and take them out of your car before you park.