Over the past five years, gun thieves in and around Houston, Texas, have stolen at least 32,000 firearms, only 7 percent of which have been recovered, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Many of these stolen guns are used to perpetrate violent crime. The Chronicle’s analysis of data published by the Houston Police Department revealed that stolen guns were used in 19 local murders – probably more, but records are incomplete.
“They could be still out on the street. They could be in criminals’ hands. They just haven’t been recovered. In other words, not all criminals will throw a gun down after they committed a crime and run off,” Franceska Perot, a spokeswoman for the Houston field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, told the Chronicle.
“Houston is so close to Mexico, we do have guns that go to Mexico. So there could be people stealing guns and taking them across the border,” she said.
Most gun thieves will take what they can get, but prefer what one might expect: pistols, revolvers, shotguns and semi-automatic rifles.
When gun owners report that their firearms are missing, that information is logged into the National Crime Information Center, an electronic “clearinghouse of crime data” (e.g. – criminal record history information, fugitives, stolen properties, missing persons) that can be tapped into by virtually every criminal justice agency.
According to the FBI, the NCIC contains information on approximately 2.9 million guns – 319, 570 hail from the Lone Star State.
As mentioned, the success rate of returning stolen firearms to their law-abiding owners is not great. In 2011, the Houston Police Department recovered and returned approximately 1,000 firearms. In 2010, that number was closer to 900.
“HPD is committed to reducing the numbers of guns on our streets. It’s a daunting task in a city of more than 2 million residents. We arrest more than 100,000 individuals every year,” HPD spokesman John Cannon told the Chronicle in a statement. “A number of them are wanted on crimes committed with guns.”
Yet despite HPD’s best efforts, gun thieves are an elusive bunch. Records revealed that police identified suspects or made arrests in only 8 percent of the cases in which guns were taken in robberies and burglaries, the AP reported.
In most cases, and according to court documents, those arrested had history of drug possession or burglary offenses. In short, gun thieves tend to be career criminals and/or drug addicts.
For a drug addict, a stolen gun will sell quickly on the streets and, therefore, is an easy way to get high.
“They do the quick burglaries because they think they can support their habit,” said Perot.
So, what should you do if one of your guns is stolen?
Authorities say it’s critical that you file a report that includes the firearm’s serial number.
“We would encourage you to make the report because that little report can reveal something later on while in the hunt of a homicide investigation or something greater,” HPD homicide detective Sgt. Brian Harris, told the Chronicle.
One might also recommend that you say a small prayer that (a) your firearm is not used in a violent crime (b) it’s returned without damage and (c) they catch the bastard(s) who took it.