WEST COLUMBIA, SC — Five UPS employees were arrested last week in connection with guns stolen from the shipping company’s hub in West Columbia, according to Lexington County deputies.
The employees, all teenagers, were charged with breach of trust, according to a press release by the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office.
Byron Burke, 19, Jalen Green, 19, Dishon Kinney, 18, Kenyon Peters, 18, and Tre’von Williams, 19, are charged with breach of trust, according to arrest warrants. In addition, Kinney and Peters were also charged with criminal conspiracy.
Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon said:
“UPS’ security team called us in as soon as they became aware of guns being stolen from incoming trucks.”
Once deputies started investigating, they discovered a plan to steal guns from incoming packages at the UPS hub. Deputies say the five men sold the guns or gave them away on company time.
Lexington County Sheriff’s Department detectives say the employees sold or gave away the guns. https://t.co/lP1BNSgphA
— The State Newspaper (@thestate) July 22, 2020
The five men were arrested at the UPS hub on Thursday, deputies say. All five have been released from the Lexington County Detention Center after meeting conditions of their bond.
UPS and FedEx allow for the shipment of handguns, while the U.S. Postal Service does not.
UPS limits such shipments to between, to and from licensed importers, manufacturers, dealers and collectors and government agencies. The packages also must be sent via Next Day Air services.
According to The Trace, government reports indicate that thousands of guns have gone missing during interstate shipments over the past 20 years:
“The thefts, security experts said, underscore vulnerabilities in the sprawling supply network that routes millions of guns to American consumers every year.
“Those gaps are in part the product of weak security standards, which put guns at heightened risk of being intercepted before they reach store shelves.
“They also handicap law enforcement officials, who may not learn that a shipment has vanished until the guns begin turning up at crime scenes.”
The Department for Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) has reported that 1,500 guns are found every year at crime scenes that have been stolen in transit, according to CNN.
"A gun theft ring at a midlands UPS hub was busted last week by Lexington County deputies. The guns were stolen from incoming packages at the shipping company’s hub in West Columbia." https://t.co/C2SvCrcwAc
— Rob (@2Aupdates) July 23, 2020
The Trace reports that the ATF now requires dealers to disclose when firearms have been stolen in transit. However, the rules only apply to dealers and not the shipping companies that ferry the guns from place to place:
“Until recently, gunmakers, wholesalers and other federally licensed dealers had to notify law enforcement only when guns went missing from their factories, warehouses, or stores.
“Guns that disappeared while in transit did not have to be reported at all. From fiscal years 2010 through 2014, law enforcement recovered more than 6,600 crime guns that traced back to dealers who claimed to have never received them — but never reported the theft or loss to federal law enforcement.”
Security experts said the new rules were likely too weak to capture the extent of the problem and that shipping companies might avoid disclosing guns lost in transit in hopes of warding off negative publicity:
Keith Lewis, vice president of operations for CargoNet, a firm that tracks and helps investigate cargo thefts, said:
“A lot of people don’t want to talk about it, so they don’t report it, don’t go public with it. It’s all about brand protection.”
Thieves are stealing unsecured weapons from cars, homes, stores and postal services, creating a criminal underground market where thugs buy and trade guns.
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Some politicians continue to blame others, including law-abiding citizens, who go through the arduous process of legally obtaining a firearm, for the violence wreaking havoc in their own communities.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot blamed the bloody month of June on a “perfect storm” of frustration with the pandemic shutdown and anger at George Floyd’s killing, heightening tension in violent neighborhoods plagued by open-air drug dealing. https://t.co/jfcUqi9LFm
— FOX 32 News (@fox32news) July 2, 2020
According to Fox 32 News:
“Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot blamed the bloody month of June on a ‘perfect storm’ of frustration with the pandemic shutdown and anger at George Floyd’s killing, heightening tension in violent neighborhoods plagued by open-air drug dealing.”
Lightfoot also recently blamed her city’s sharp rise in gun violence on other states and the federal government’s failure to conduct background checks, a measure the state of Illinois has already implemented:
“We have got to make sure that we do a better job of taking guns out of the hands of criminals,” Lightfoot told MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle. “You’ve heard me say this before: We have to have a federal policy on background checks and making sure that dangerous people are not able to go across the border to states like Indiana and get military-grade weapons in quantities and then bring them back to the streets and shoot people up.”
Illinois has a universal background check system and strict permitting practices in place. That has not prevented Chicago from experiencing a rise in gun violence over the past year, including the deaths of nine children under the age of 18 between June 20 and July 5.
Eighteen people were wounded by gunfire in recent days in the city as a drop in police activity has coincided with Lightfoot’s feud with the police union, which blames her for low morale.
The city is on track to see a homicide count that rivals 2016’s homicide count, the city’s most violent year since the mid-1990s.
Lightfoot has blamed the city’s police union for obstructing attempts at police reform. She accused union chief John Catanzara of having “his head in the sand” after he pushed back on claims that racism is an issue in the police department.
Catanzara cited that one aspect contributing to a decline in arrests is that police are in fear of losing their jobs for simply making proper arrests:
“When the top official in this city is blaming the police for everything that’s wrong, to hide their inefficiencies and inadequacies, it definitely makes people stop and wonder, ‘what am I doing? Am I going home? Am I going to have a job tomorrow? Am I going to be in jail next week?’”
The mayor has also blamed additional states for the violence in the windy city. On April 3, 2019, Lightfoot said:
“Well, look, I’m meeting with the superintendent and his executive team this afternoon, so we can get to work. You’re right, summer is coming. And it’s one of the most deadly times in our city.
“But I’m determined to make sure that we do what’s necessary to stem the violence. That means we’ve got to start investing in our people, investing in neighborhoods, because a lot of the violence that we’re seeing is really crimes of poverty.
“But we’ve also got to make sure we’ve got a proactive plan to deal with the guns that are coming into our city from Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and — and some of the southern states.
“And that means we have to have our federal partners step up and work in cooperation with us to focus on gun traffickers, felons in possession, and straw purchasers.”
Perhaps, Lightfoot is just hoping that the crisis in her city will simply vanish and be “Gone with the Wind.”
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