Washington — Nearly 180 Department of Homeland Security weapons were lost — some falling into the hands of criminals – after officers left them in restrooms, vehicles and other public places, according to an inspector general report.

The officers, with Customs and Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, “did not always sufficiently safeguard their firearms and, as a result, lost a significant number of firearms” between fiscal year 2006 and fiscal year 2008, the report said.

In all, 243 firearms were lost in both agencies during that period, according to the January report from Inspector General Richard Skinner. Of those, 36 were lost because of circumstances beyond officers’ control — for instance, ICE lost a firearm during an assault on an officer. Another 28 were lost even though officers had stored them in lockboxes or safes.

But 74 percent, or 179 guns, were lost “because officers did not properly secure them,” the report said.
Following a review of the draft report in December, Homeland Security took steps to implement its recommendations and overhaul its property management policy, according to a response in the report. A department spokeswoman did not immediately return a call from CNN Thursday seeking comment.

The report concluded the department did not have specific procedures and policies in place regarding firearms. “Instead, DHS relied on its components to augment its general property management policies and procedures with specific guidance for safeguarding and controlling firearms,” it said. “Although some component policies and procedures for safeguarding firearms were sufficient, personnel did not always follow them.”

The inspector general cited several examples of “inappropriate practices.” A customs officer, for instance, left a firearm in an idling vehicle in the parking lot of a convenience store. The vehicle was stolen while the officer was inside. “A local law enforcement officer later recovered the firearm from a suspected gang member and drug smuggler,” the report said.

In addition, an ICE officer left an M-4 rifle and a shotgun unsecured in a closet at his home. Both weapons were stolen in a burglary and later recovered from a felon, according to the report. Another officer left his firearm in the restroom of a fast-food restaurant, and it was gone when he returned.

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Washington — Nearly 180 Department of Homeland Security weapons were lost -- some falling…