By Karen Morfitt

THORNTON, Colo. (CBS4) – Federal authorities say 16 people have been charged with stealing from gun stores around Colorado.

Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer and ATF Denver Division Special Agent in Charge Debora Livingston say the issue is a top priority.

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“Very brazen type of gun theft, where folks are cutting through walls smashing front windows or driving vehicles through the fronts of stores,” Troyer said.

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They say federal agencies are collaborating with local police departments to solve thefts from stores around the state.

“We are using shell casing analysis, DNA analysis, cellphone and social media exploitation. Every trick in the book to get the guns back and also to hold these folks accountable for this,” Troyer said.

Tuesday’s announcement included charges in six separate break-ins, dating back to November.

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They are arrests that came largely in part to the formation of a special task force known as “Strike Force.”

In the most recent case, prosecutors say four people teamed up to steal handguns, shotguns and rifles from Mel Bernstein’s store Dragon Arms in El Paso County.

“My video shows four people running into the store grabbing guns and running back out,” he said.

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In other cases, officials say crews targeted a Cabela’s store in Lone Tree and Thornton, a pawn store in Colorado Springs and a gun store in Denver.

Prosecutors say more than 400 firearms have been stolen from Colorado stores this year.

Troyer says their aggressive approach to solving these crimes should send an equally aggressive message.

“They should go somewhere else if they want to try this. The reality is you’re going to get caught,” said Troyer.

Karen Morfitt joined the CBS4 team as a reporter in 2013. She covers a variety of stories in and around the Denver metro area. Connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @karenmorfitt or email her tips.

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