LAKELAND (FOX 13) - Al Delatorre's been in business since the early 1980s. Never before has it been so hard to keep his inventory in the hands of paying customers only. Early Sunday, burglars hit his Lakeland gun shop for the second time in a little more than a month.
"I have a medical lock on the door. Obviously it didn't work. They came in and I would imagine didn't spend more than five to seven minutes in here," Delatorre said Monday.
Actually, deputies say they arrived in just three minutes -- plenty of time for a team of crooks to get in and out with 46 handguns.
Investigators were critical of the store's security. Delatorre has an alarm and locks, but no security cameras and the guns were on display in glass cases.
"Gun store owners have a moral and ethical obligation to secure their inventory," Polk County Sheriff's Office's Scott Wilder said.
Polk detectives have been going store-to-store warning shop owners of the uptick in gun thefts. Earlier this month, thieves hit Rapture gun store in Lakeland, taking off with 76 firearms. A few days ago, surveillance cameras caught a man attempting to shatter the glass of a gun store in Winter Haven.
"Those handguns are destined for the black market and bad guys are gonna have those guns and they're going to use them," Wilder said.
Delatorre says he's going to get cameras and more security for his store to hopefully prevent a third strike. But in some ways, he feels helpless.
"If somebody wants to break in, and they have enough time to break in, they're going to break in. Whether it's this or a bank or any place else," he said.
It's still unclear if all the thefts are being done by the same group of people. Polk detectives say the crimes are quick and sophisticated. If you have any information, you can leave an anonymous tip with Heartland Crime Stoppers.