KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police records show there has been an unprecedented spike in gun thefts in Kansas City, Missouri.

The number of annual firearms thefts sharply increased between 2015 and 2016, according to police data obtained by the Kansas City Star . Police received just more than 800 gun theft reports in Kansas City last year, compared to less than 600 the year before.

Mark Jones, a former special agent in the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said that too many gun owners are carelessly stowing their firearms in cars, not securing them in locked boxes and failing to record serial numbers to help police if they're stolen.

"All guns start life as a legal commodity," Jones said. But when gun owners fail to protect their firearms, those who steal them take them "into the underground market."

People stealing guns know there are eager buyers who will readily pay a large amount for illegal guns, said Don Pind, a firearms training consultant in Kansas City.

"You can get $300 for anything that goes 'bang,'" he said.

A 2016 study by the University of Pittsburgh found that in violent crimes where guns were recovered, the suspect carried a weapon owned by someone else 80 percent of the time. Police records show Kansas City has recorded 113 homicides this year as of Oct. 12, already more than 2016's year-end total of 94. Suspects used firearms in 97 of this year's killings.

"Those guns stay on the streets," said Capt. Stacey Graves, spokeswoman for the Kansas City Police Department. "They bring violence on our community."

Police said people should avoid leaving unsecured firearms in vehicles and make sure that any valuables left in a car are completely out of view. Extra precautions are also necessary in parking areas where thieves may think there's an increased likelihood of finding guns, such as at gun shows or outside sporting and entertainment events where no firearms are allowed inside.

"If you think you need a gun, your best choice is not to go," said Kim Berry, resident of Johnson County. "Bullets have no name. It's the innocent person who pays."

___

Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com