UPDATED 4/8 @ 2:45 P.M.–Commercial businesses have been closed by shelter-in-place orders in several states in reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak, but criminals didn’t get the memo—or maybe they did—because in Seattle, Wash., and San Jose, Calif., there have been reported spikes in commercial burglaries, and one Seattle report said the crime has “exploded.”
In response, one gun rights group says it is no mystery why increasing numbers of people have gone to gun stores, perhaps for the first time, to buy a firearm for personal protection.
According to MyNorthwest.com, burglary cases were up more than 87 percent as of April 3 in Seattle’s West Police Precinct, which includes the downtown area. Businesses there have closed their doors at a time when jails are not booking misdemeanors over concerns about spreading the coronavirus.
Down in San Jose, KPIX News reported thieves have targeted restaurants and small businesses. While owners and employees are “sheltering-in-place,” crooks are evidently busy. The owner of one small business in San Jose told a reporter that “small businesses are really being left out on a limb.”
All of this activity compelled Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, to declare in a prepared statement, “Fortunately, most of the crime now being reported involves commercial burglary of unoccupied businesses, but how long before the people responsible ramp things up? People, many of whom have never before owned a gun, now want that means of personal safety, for themselves, their families and their homes.
“That’s why it makes no sense to close down gun shops and shooting ranges as ‘non-essential’ while the coronavirus emergency continues,” he explained. “Gun sales are in record territory, and ordering gun stores to shut down is simply wrong.”
“Using the current emergency as an excuse to close gun shops amounts to giving the gun control agenda a higher priority than public safety,” Gottlieb said. “Where else but a gun shop and local range can new gun owners learn about firearms safety, including safe storage? Where else can they purchase gun locks and gun safes, and receive competent instruction about responsible gun ownership?”
Recently, Seattle’s KIRO Eyewitness News offered tips to business owners that suggest taking some precautions that could be as expensive as the crimes. Among the suggestions were installing latch guards, using shatter-proof glass in windows, security cameras and alarm systems, and security film on vulnerable windows.
Seattle’s uptick in burglary comes even after Seattle Police arrested a prolific burglar in the city’s Queen Anne neighborhood where, according to KCPQ, he was “attempting to sell stolen tools.” The suspect, a convicted felon, was wanted in connection with a string of burglaries and was booked into the King County jail seven counts of burglary, one count of residential burglary and one count of malicious mischief.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has extended the shutdown order through May 4. Some businesses may never recover, according to anecdotal reports, but restaurants have shifted to take-out only, and other types of businesses have employees working remotely from home. “Essential” businesses, such as hardware stores, grocery stores and gas stations remain open. In many businesses, check out employees are now separated from customers by plastic shields, others wear latex gloves and masks, and some businesses—including banks and credit unions—might allow only a few people in at a time, or encourage customers to use drive-up windows.
Inslee has even shut down recreational fishing and the spring turkey season is “on hold” in Washington State. Hiking trails, campgrounds and some park facilities are vacant as well.