Felons with firearms: SPD seeing dangerous increase

The Spokane Police Department is seeing a dangerous and growing trend: convicted felons carrying firearms.

State law bans anyone with a felony conviction from having a gun, but that’s not stopping criminals — especially those involved in drug trafficking.

“They are criminals, so the fact that they are prohibited doesn’t really matter to them,” said Investigations Captain Brad Arleth.

SPD seized more than 200 weapons in 2018 while investigating crimes like burglaries and drug trafficking. But that number does not include weapons found by patrol officers on a daily basis.

Whenever police come across a large amount of drugs, or search a stash house, guns are almost always inevitable.

“Some of the upper level investigations that ranged from one kilo of cocaine to 11 pounds of methamphetamine or more — that we were encountering three of four individuals who were armed, each with a gun and some of the guns were stolen,” Arleth said.

Stolen, from homes and cars of law abiding citizens to be used in crimes — some of them violent. It can make the job even more dangerous for officers.

“We prepare ourselves for that, both through training and with equipment, and mentally for the potential of that.”

183 guns stolen in Spokane county since July have yet to be recovered. Arleth said gun owners should keep their weapons in a safe, secure place. He also recommends keeping record of all serial numbers — it’s the easiest way for police to return stolen property if it’s recovered.

“Every week somebody will report a gun stolen and they do not know their serial number.”

Weapons seized by Spokane Police are stored as evidence until criminals are prosecuted. If the weapon is stolen and can not be returned to its original owner, it gets destroyed.

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