Even the Coconino County sheriff hasn't been safe from a recent string of auto burglaries that have Flagstaff police reminding residents to lock their car doors.

Several dozen people have been victimized recently, as the thieves made off with untold thousands of dollars worth of cellphones, laptops, GPS units, cash, guns and other valuables.

"It seems to be nonstop," said Sgt. James Jackson of the Flagstaff Police Department. "It's been every couple of nights. We need to put a stop to it."

Detectives say that almost all the cases have been crimes of opportunity and about 90 percent of the cars have been unlocked.

Several people who have left their keys in their unlocked cars have also woken up to discover their vehicles gone.

"If people could please, please, lock their cars up and take their valuables inside," Jackson said.

Police have a suspect in the crimes, but they have so far declined to name the 17-year-old until they get a legal opinion from the City Attorney's Office on whether they can legally identify the minor.

Coconino County Sheriff Bill Pribil had his personal concealed weapon stolen from his truck on Saturday night during a string of break-ins in his neighborhood.

The Country Club and Swiss Manor neighborhoods have been hit repeatedly in recent weeks -- police officials say the criminals have focused on areas with more expensive homes.

One of Pribil's neighbors, a captain with the fire department, found a wallet with a passport and Social Security card near the sheriff's house Sunday, and the two figured out that it belonged to someone up the street.

The Sheriff said that he got a sinking feeling as he saw his own center console had been opened and knew someone else had his firearm.

He had helped a friend move on Saturday and had taken his Glock 9mm from his ankle and left it in the center console as they carried furniture. He remembers locking his truck when he parked at home.

"The lesson to be learned here is don't leave anything in your vehicle you don't want to lose," Pribil said.

He added that the sheriff's office always teaches people to hide their valuables and lock their cars, but he said that in the future, he'll go the extra step and take everything out of his car.

For the police department, the crimes overturn a year of progress in fighting auto burglaries.

There were 63 percent fewer auto burglaries in 2012 than there were the previous year. As of the end of March, there have already been more car break-ins in Flagstaff this year than all of last year.

Officials say that it's common to have such auto burglary sprees attributed to one person or group, which can skew numbers for the entire year.

Eric Betz can be reached at 556-2250 or ebetz@azdailysun.com.

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