|Special Agent Gary Orchowski|
“First and foremost, we’re here to protect the public,” declared ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge Gary Orchowski during a Crime Stoppers press conference on Thursday. “We don’t want to see violent crime increase in the greater metropolitan area of Houston as a result of stolen guns on the street.”
Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined Crime Stoppers and investigators from various local law enforcement agencies on Thursday to shed light on a professional ring of burglars targeting Houston area businesses.
The businesses: gun stores. The loot: hundreds of firearms. The fear: more guns on the street.
Over the last six weeks, a series of burglaries at area gun stores and pawn shops has caught the attention of the ATF and numerous other law enforcement agencies. Investigators believe that eight of the burglaries may be related. In total, 274 firearms are reported to have been stolen in related burglaries. Investigators described the group responsible as professional, systematic, and organized.
“This case has the support of multiple agencies, and is an example of the type of interagency cooperation I’m proud of,” said Lieutenant Jeff Strauber of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. In a quip targeted at the offenders in these cases, Strauber noted, “For the people responsible, let it be a sign that it’s only a matter of time before this team catches you.”
|Multiple Burglary Locations|
The burglaries have resulted in the theft of well over two hundred firearms from local businesses. Notably, throughout the course of the investigation, only one firearm has been recovered. “On average, 50% of stolen weapons are recovered within 25 miles of the burglary,” described Special Agent Orchowski, who went on to note that Texas ranks third among other states in gun theft.
“The goal is to get all [burglary crews] shut down, and off the streets,” said Lt. Strauber when asked about his outlook on the case. “My worst fear has already been realized; these guns are on the street."
Crime Stoppers is offering up to $5,000 in a cash reward for information that leads to the filing of felony charges or the arrest of a subject in this case. “The beauty of it,” concluded Lt. Strauber, “is that you can call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS, and remain completely anonymous.”
Surveillance video of one recent burglary is located at:
Citizens are urged to call Crime Stoppers with any information about the identity of the suspects in these cases. All callers remain anonymous.