WINTHROP HARBOR, Ill. (WLS) -- Burglars broke into a Winthrop Harbor gun store and made off with 39 firearms Tuesday morning, police said.
Officers responded to a burglar alarm at the Outdoorsman, 221 Sheridan Rd, at about 12:33 a.m. and found the front door of the business shattered.
Multiple display cases inside the store were broken and five rifles, two shotguns and 32 pistols were stolen, said Det. Sgt. Chris Willets, Winthrop Harbor Police Department.
The robbers pulled up in in a dark-colored SUV around 1 a.m. and parked in front of the store on Sheridan Road. Surveillance tapes show four people wearing hoodies, masks and gloves break through the front door with tools to smash display cases.
Police said the entire theft took only a few minutes. They took the pistols out of the glass displays and loaded them into bags before walking back to the car, according to police officials. They then took off north on Sheridan Road toward Wisconsin.
Investigators believe the group cased the store before the break-in.
"More than likely, they were familiar you know, and had been in there before, and so that will help if we can get some video evidence from when they may have come in there," said Chief Joel Brumlik, Winthrop Harbor Police Department.
Winthrop Harbor detectives are investigating and working with other agencies, including the U.S. Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
"We will respond to every single Federal Firearms licensee burglary robbery, that's, that is our priority, said Brendan Iber, assistant special agent in charge for the ATF in Chicago.
In 2017, I-Team reported gun store burglaries were spiking. Updated ATF data shows the number of federal firearms licensee burglaries dropped but total guns taken is significantly higher.
"If you look at Illinois in general from 2018 to 2019, the actual number of FFL burglaries and robberies went down. However, the amount of firearms taken in those burglaries almost doubled. So you went from 153 approximately 153 firearm as of 2018 to almost 300 in 2019," Iber said.
"The top priority is to get these guys apprehended and get these guns back before they before they hit the illegal market, before they hit the illegal trafficking," Iber added.
Agencies are now working to run the plate of the getaway car to see if the crew hit other gun stores in the area.
"We're going to keep turning up every possible lead we can, and we're not going to stop until we hopefully can get those guns back," said Chief Joel Brumlik, Winthrop Harbor Police Department.
Anyone with information is asked to call Winthrop Harbor Detective Chris Willets at 847-872-8646, or Lake County Crime Stoppers at 847-662-2222.