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Santa Clara County Sheriff Installs Gun Lock Boxes In Patrol Cars

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- A Bay Area sheriff isn't waiting for a new state law to take effect to keep her deputies' guns away from thieves.

The Santa Clara County Sheriff's office is one of the first agencies in California to issue lock boxes in department and personal vehicles used by law enforcement officers.

"We don't want guns in the hands of people who shouldn't have firearms," said Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith.

Installations are underway to place 750 portable gun vaults in deputies' personal cars to help comply with Senate Bill 869.

On Thursday, Smith showed off the lock boxes she wants her deputies to use when they're off duty.

"So not only are we equipping all of our patrol cars and our unmarked patrol cars, but we're also issuing them to deputies to secure in their own cars," explained Smith.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill requiring law enforcement officers to lock up any guns left in unattended vehicles or face fines of $1,000 into law on September 26.

The sheriff told KPIX 5 she isn't waiting until the new law takes effect in January.

The law was introduced by State Senator Jerry Hill after the high-profile homicide of Kate Steinle in San Francisco and Oakland artist Antonio Ramos.

In both cases, the guns used in the fatal shooting deaths were stolen from law enforcement.

"I think that brought to light for all of us just the devastating consequences of when someone is irresponsibly leaving their handgun in a vehicle," said Hill.

Over the last six years, more than 900 guns were reported stolen from law enforcement in California.

The senator called the vaults "750 strong steps to ensure safe gun storage."

The last time a firearm was stolen from a Santa Clara County sheriff's deputy's vehicle was within the past three years, according to sheriff's officials.

"We realize that there are many circumstances where peace officers may not take their firearms into certain locations," Smith said.

Deputies are encouraged to keep their firearm with them at all times, but situations such as sporting and school events force them to temporarily keep the weapon in their car, Smith said.

Previously the sheriff's protocol was for deputies to lock their firearm in a car trunk, but a new policy has been written surrounding the new requirement to store the weapons in the lock boxes, according to Smith.

The key lock vaults for deputies' personal cars were purchased through funds raised by the sheriff's Advisory Board, a nonprofit organization, Smith said.

The lock boxes from Snapsafe Modular Vaults are valued at about $30 each, according to sheriff's officials.

Vaults have also been placed in most of the sheriff's unmarked patrol cars, which come with a key and combination lock, according to Smith.

TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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