Gun thefts turn up stress for officers

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Metro police officers say they're concerned about gun crimes, saying criminals are arming themselves with stolen weapons.

In the last year-and-a-half, 22 IMPD officers were shot at, including nine who were hit. In the investigation into the shooting of Ofc. Perry Renn Saturday night, detectives are looking at the source of the murder weapon.

Gun store break-ins played out 4,000 times around the U.S. in 2013 alone. Tuesday morning in Indianapolis, a car ran into a pawn shop and its occupants stole the guns.

It's unclear how many of the quarter-million guns stolen from stores and homes - or just lost - each year end up used in crimes. Many of those stolen guns are assault-style weapons like the one used to murder Officer Renn.

"There's more guns, there's more weapons. Are they here? Are they in this community or have they been shipped out of the community? Have they been sold to someone on the street who should not have it?"

Those are the stressful questions confronting officers now, just adding to the stress officers already get on the streets, says Ball State police expert Dr. Bryan Byers.

"It's very tragic. Very, very frightening," Byers said.

Add in the recent ambush of officers in Las Vegas by a Lafayette couple and now Internet threats against police by their friends in Indiana, plus suspects firing on SWAT teams and bad guys not afraid to fire at police first.

"The unknown is part of the stress of being a police officer," Byers said.

But scenes like one we saw Monday, where an east Indianapolis neighborhood rallied behind officers at roll call?

"That's all very positive in the aftermath of tragedy," said Byers.

He says the memorials like the squad car filled with flowers and social media posts help officers cope. Most importantly, they have each other.

"The people in law enforcement feel very, very close to one another. They understand how difficult it is to do what they do," he said.

He says police department commanders also have to keep a keen eye on officers for any signs of stress-related problems.

Meanwhile, the memorial at Ofc. Renn's patrol car at the IMPD North District has grown. It's a place for the community to show grief and for officers to see the residents they serve care.