Austin Police Department creates firearms tipline

It is against the law for convicted felons to own a gun, but they're getting their hands on them and continuing to commit crimes.

In this week's CrimeWatch FOX 7's Noelle Newton shows how Austin police have created two ways for you to submit tips that will help them recover these guns and put the criminals back in jail.

Fortunately for the APD firearms unit, convicted criminals like to show off their weapons. Some of them will post photos holding guns on Facebook.

Detectives showed us photos of one man, who has a felony conviction for marijuana, posing with guns in photos. The man also served two years in prison for an unlawful possession of a firearm conviction.

Another man, who is currently out on bond for a federal drug indictment and has a warrant for his arrest for jumping bail, also took several photos of himself with guns.

Detectives say neither is legally able to have a gun, but they clearly do.

"If someone is a convicted felon, they know that they're violating the law committing a felony by possessing that firearm. They're not possessing it for sports shooting and hunting. They're possessing it in order to protect their drug transactions to commit a violent crime. They're not carrying it for any other purpose," said Lt. Pat Connor.

Lt. Pat Connor oversees the firearms unit. Detectives and officers solely focus on finding people who shouldn't have a gun and those who buy guns for felons--which is called making a straw purchase.

In addition to searching through social media sites, the unit heavily relies on tips from the public.

"The public a lot of times will flag an officer down on patrol and provide information and those officers will forward that information onto our unit," said Connor.

Last year, the unit investigated 147 cases of possession of firearm by felon, 117 were arrested, and 1,002 guns were seized.

So far this year detectives have investigated 57 cases and arrested 39 people. 438 guns have been seized.

Detectives say the majority of the guns their unit recovers were stolen from the legal owner.

To increase the chances of finding those who shouldn't have guns, the unit has created a two ways for the public to submit tips. You can call the new APD Firearms Tipline at 512-974-7999. You can leave a message for detectives. You can remain anonymous.

Officers have also set up an email account: APDFIREARMS@AUSTINTEXAS.GOV.

"We just want to give another means to the public to be able to provide information to us," said Connor.

Connor says you're not just taking a gun away from a criminal, you're preventing more crime.