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The crime behind the crimes: More than 2 guns stolen in Cleveland every day, on average

Over 5,300 stolen since 2016
Posted: 12:16 PM, May 19, 2022
Updated: 2022-05-20 06:52:34-04
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CLEVELAND — With Cleveland on pace for one of the deadliest years in the last decade, News 5 Investigators discovered the number of guns reported stolen in the city has skyrocketed over the last five years.

Cleveland police records show that between 2016 and 2021 the number of guns reported stolen jumped nearly 72%.

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Between January 1, 2016, and May 9, 2022, records show 5,381 guns were reported stolen. That’s an average of more than two guns a day, every day, for more than six years.

Prosecutors say stolen guns are a major way convicted criminals and kids too young to legally buy guns are arming themselves, fueling violent crime across Northeast Ohio.

“It’s one of the easiest ways for a gun to get into somebody’s hands that shouldn’t have that gun,” said Ryan Bokoch, Supervisor of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office’s Crime Strategies Unit. “The more guns that are out on the street in the illegal stream of commerce is worrisome because they’re going to be used in crimes.”

It’s a reality Christan Halton knows firsthand.

Timothy Halton

She said her brother Timothy Halton was a teenager when he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Christan watched as the older brother she had once been so close to pulled away. Eventually, she said, he became prone to violent outbursts and run-ins with police.

By Spring of 2007, Timothy Halton’s family said he’d been hospitalized 27 times and racked up 10 arrests.

Legally, Halton was not allowed to have a gun on the night of May 25, 2007.

“The next morning I get a knock on my door, and it’s my dad, and he’s like Timmy killed a cop,” recalled Christan Halton.

Cleveland Heights police officer Jason West died from a bullet fired by Halton.

Officer Jason West

Investigators said the 9mm murder weapon was a stolen handgun.

“How easy was it for your brother to get his hands on a gun even though, legally, he couldn’t?” News 5 Investigators asked Christan Halton.

“It was as easy as going to a drive-through and ordering a meal,” said Halton. “Pull up. He went somewhere on 55th, knew a guy that sold guns, and bought one.”

In fact, Bokoch said prosecutors see stolen guns connected to crimes weekly.

In some cases, investigators say the same guns are used again and again in crimes.

Take the case of a 9mm handgun reported stolen from a car in Cleveland back in January 2015.


View this interactive timeline fullscreen here.

Police recovered the gun two months later inside a Warrensville Heights apartment.

Investigators said ballistics testing linked the stolen gun to a web of crimes that included five different shootings across Cleveland’s east side in just 22 days, including the murder of a 29-year-old man.

Marcus Ladson, a convicted felon who wasn’t able to legally buy a gun, was convicted of stealing the gun, and the shootings, and is serving a 127-year prison sentence.

Stolen guns in Cleveland on the rise

Bokoch said the case highlights the need to get stolen guns and the shooters that use them off the streets.

“Any time you’re putting a gun in the hands of a criminal, it’s a life or death situation,” said Bokoch.

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But Bokoch said the demand for stolen guns is strong on the streets. He said thieves know they can immediately be sold for cash.

Police records show reports of gun thefts stretch from one side of the city to the other. In some cases, the guns eventually are recovered as far away as Texas and Canada.

“These guns don’t know borders,” said Bokoch. “They go wherever the criminal’s going, wherever he’s got a beef or a reason to use that gun. That gun is going to go there.”

It’s why Christan Halton believes the increase in stolen guns is something the entire community should be concerned with.

RELATED: New online tool lets Ohioans check to see if the gun they are buying has been reported stolen

As her brother serves a life sentence in prison as a convicted cop killer, she worries about whose hands the next stolen gun will fall into.

“That’s a lot of people that could get murdered today, tomorrow, or next week,” said Halton. “If you’re purchasing a stolen gun, or if you’re stealing a gun, you’re going to do some dirt. Believe me.”

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The Cleveland Police Department and Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration did not respond to a series of requests over the last 10 days for interviews to discuss potential reasons for the increase in the number of guns stolen in the city as well as plans to address the problem.