CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Clarksville Police Department is pleading with the public to lock up their guns and their cars. Recently, there’s been an uptick in stolen firearms and a majority of them are left in unlocked cars.

Police say it’s happening late at night and early in the morning when suspects are on the hunt for valuables inside cars. Oftentimes, vehicles are found running and unlocked or open with the keys inside.

“Get out of the car for just a moment, maybe run into the store and they leave it running, and it’s a crime of opportunity,” said Scott Beaubien with the Clarksville Police Department.

Surveillance footage from outside of residential homes has been catching these crimes on camera. It’s called “car-hopping” and it’s become a major problem in the Clarksville area. The act involves individuals working in a group, driving to a neighborhood and breaking into multiple cars in a short amount of time.

“It’s a group that will go into an area where there’s a lot of vehicles, subdivisions or even apartment complexes, and they’ll go out and they’ll spread out and they check the doors, check the doors, and once the door is open they’ll reach in again, scrabble through it, or rummage through the vehicle,” explained Beaubien.

Inside cars, thieves look for valuables like purses, money or even guns.

“The vehicle burglaries that we have are from unlocked vehicles, they will come up and check a door and it opens, and they’ll rummage through it and they find an unsecured firearm, they’ll take them and now those guns, 39 of them are on the street,” Beaubien said.

From January to March of 2022, the Clarksville Police Department responded to 247 vehicle burglaries. Additionally, there have been 138 stolen vehicles. In a majority of these burglaries, police have found that there was no forced entry, meaning the vehicle was left unlocked.

The number of guns ending up in the wrong hands and stolen is a reality that hits close to home for Sebnem Broaden.

“Malik’s best friend, she called me to let me know that Malik had got shot,” remembered Broaden.

Broaden now lives in Florida, but the memory of her son being shot and killed is close to her heart.

“He still had so much to go. He was always there for his friends and family. It’s hard, it’s hard every day,” said Broaden.

Back in 2020, Malik Madison was shot in a drive-by shooting on Cranklen Circle, near the Clarksville Regional Airport. At the time of the shooting, Madison was 19-years-old and was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Two people were arrested, Jakrarius Medly and a 16-year-old juvenile.

“I asked myself the questions every day. Why, why him, why did that have to happen, it just doesn’t make any sense,” said Broaden.

Chief of Police David Crockarell stated, “These types of crimes are avoidable and preventable, it only takes a minute to secure your firearms, secure your valuables, and lock your vehicle’s doors.”

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The Clarksville Police Department is asking the public to “Park Smart,” by locking your vehicle, securing your valuables and taking your keys with you.