GASTONIA, N.C. -- Police say a group of people are targeting vehicles hoping to steal unsecured guns, and that pickup trucks appear to be the main focus.

Mostly pickup trucks, and they're just riding around parking lots looking for targets of opportunity, said CMPD Officer Craig Allen.

Allen says that topic came up a couple of days ago during an in-house crime stat discussion that has police focusing on prevention.

Cars shouldn't be used for gun storage, Allen said.

Gastonia police say that target of opportunity rises in November and December.

Their 2012 crime stats show an increase in car break-ins during those holiday months, with guns as the third-most item stolen next to purses and electronics.

Gun owner Todd Barrineau doesn't keep his guns in his vehicle, but says people target truck owners like his gun owner buddies, who go to ranges, hunt in the fall and too often leave their guns unsecured. It s enough to make sure his friends don't do it again.

It's very worrisome, especially if you are going to the range and you stop, like we did last weekend and had lunch after we went to the range. The guns were in the vehicle, at the time unlocked, and unsecured, hidden but they're there. And if somebody breaks in they're definitely going to find the weapons, Barrineau said.

It's not a question of monetary value. It's what might happen with your gun after the fact. No one wants that on their conscience, said Mitchell Hyatt with Hyatt Gun Shop.

That's why in-vehicle gun safes are popular at his store. They're basically clam shell steel boxes with a steel cable that connects to your car seat.

It's your gun on the streets, registered to you, Barrineau said.

Stolen guns, police say, are often sold or embolden criminals to use them.

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