SALINAS (CBS SF) — A Salinas police chief’s firearm was found among stolen property recovered following a months-long investigation into a series of thefts in unincorporated Monterey County.

Police Chief Kelly McMillin’s AR-15 rifle was one of many items reported stolen in car thefts and burglaries from the Las Palmas and Toro Park areas in February and March, Monterey County Sheriff Steve Bernal said during a news conference Wednesday.

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As a result of the follow-up investigation, 19 people have been arrested in connection with the thefts, including 10 who are suspected of various felonies such as selling drugs and possessing firearms, Bernal said.

The widespread probe led to the seizure of 20 illegally possessed firearms: nine handguns, six shotguns and five rifles, according to Bernal.

At least one person arrested in connection with taking McMillin’s department-issued rifle, found in the past one or two weeks, may not have known they were stealing from the police chief, Bernal said.

Another Salinas police officer’s firearm was also recovered, but a third stolen gun owned by Salinas police hasn’t been located, the sheriff said.

Detectives also found 4 pounds of drugs, including methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin, which were often times found with the firearms. The investigation also led to thousands of rounds of ammunition, thousands of dollars in U.S. currency and other property, according to Bernal.

Deputies served 10 search warrants and conducted multiple parole and probation compliance checks over the course of the investigation, Bernal said.

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The sheriff called on the public to lock and remove any valuables from their cars because one of the suspects confessed to targeting unlocked vehicles.

Bernal also advised people to call 911 if they see any suspicious cars or vehicles in their neighborhoods.

Detectives are working to return the property to their rightful owners, he said.

Deputies increased enforcement in the unincorporated communities along the state Highway 68 corridor outside Salinas in response to the high volume of reported thefts, which have since decreased, Bernal said.

Other agencies assisted the sheriff’s office in the investigation, including Salinas police, the Monterey County Probation Department, state parole agents and the California Highway Patrol, Bernal said.

Anyone with information on the thefts or outstanding suspects is asked to call the sheriff’s office’s tip line at (888) 833-4847.

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