SOUTH PORTLAND – Police questioned and released a “person of interest” Saturday in several South Portland car break-ins, including the theft of a loaded handgun from a Cumberland County Sheriff deputy’s vehicle Friday morning.

South Portland police said Portland police found Jarrod Howell, 21, who was questioned about the car break-ins, which occurred early Friday morning near the Ferry Village section of South Portland. Howell was subsequently released, police said Saturday afternoon.

Among the cars broken into was a sheriff deputy’s vehicle, and the deputy’s loaded gun, his badge and several credit cards were stolen.

Police circulated a grainy picture that they said showed a suspect attempting to use a stolen credit card at a Portland ATM a few hours after the break-ins.

Cumberland County Chief Deputy Sheriff Naldo Gagnon said Saturday that he doesn’t believe it was a violation of department policy for the deputy to leave the loaded handgun in his car at the end of the shift, although Gagnon said he would review the policy Monday to be sure.

He declined to name the deputy whose car was broken into.

Gagnon said he has on occasion left his own gun in his car, particularly when he is on call and may need to leave in a hurry. He said he didn’t know if the deputy in South Portland was on call Friday.

Gagnon also said that a deputy’s house was broken into more than a year ago and a safe containing the deputy’s gun was stolen, which he said illustrated that a gun locked away in a house is not necessarily safer than a gun in a car. The gun stolen from the house has not been recovered, he said.

South Portland Police Sgt. Steve Webster said anyone with information about the car break-ins should call police at 874-8575.