DES MOINES, Iowa – The Des Moines Police Department participated in National Night Out Tuesday, an annual event helping residents get to know the police officers protecting their neighborhoods. The connection could be key in helping officers solve gun-related crimes in the metro.

“Probably the most alarming is we’re seeing more and more teenagers with guns and the access to those guns, whether they’re stealing them or someone is providing them to them is one thing we’re really focusing our efforts on and intercepting them before they get in kid’s hands,” said Sgt. Paul Parizek with the Des Moines Police Department.

Sgt. Parizek said the number of guns in the hands of young people is a major problem. These are not weapons these criminals are buying legally. Instead, they are stolen from homes and vehicles and gun owners need to do a better job securing firearms.

In the past two years, 258 guns were reported stolen to police. Of those, 94 were taken from vehicles & another 94 were taken from residences.

The majority of suspects found with stolen guns are between the ages of 18 to 25 years old with 51 of the suspects being 17 and younger.

“When we find these 14 or 15-year-old kids possessing these guns it typically seems like there’s been a considerable effort to get that gun in their hand. Whether that’s breaking into cars and going after guns stored in there or know someone whose parents have a gun or their parent has a gun. There’s deliberate effort and that’s something we got to get in front of,” said Parizek.

During events like National Night Out, police said they get the chance to engage with the public to let neighbors know being a responsible gun owner is ensuring someone can’t take it away. So they know not to leave a gun in a car, make sure it’s locked away and secured so nobody but the owner can get it.

Sgt. Parizek said it’s a mindset that has to change.

He also said 10 ghost guns have been confiscated by Des Moines police this year. Those are guns made at home, out of parts purchased legally online.