by: Erica Byfield Updated:
ATLANTA - Georgia is second in the nation for reported gun thefts.
A Channel 2 Action News investigation discovered that most of those guns are never recovered and wind up being used to commit more crimes.
In 2012, criminals stole about 13,000 guns from Georgia gun owners, and law enforcement officials told Channel 2’s Erica Byfield it's only getting worse.
"That feeling, that dread, you're like, ‘Oh my gosh,’" said Jack Knobloch.
It was a Thursday evening in 2013 when Knobloch felt choked by dread.
He was watching an ultimate Frisbee game at Atlanta's Coan Park.
"We had a game of the week under the lights, so there was a whole group of 50 to 75 of us kind of out here watching the game," Knobloch told Byfield.
A short time later he walked to his car.
"All my stuff was everywhere, except for the things that were no longer there," Knobloch said.
Six people’s cars were broken into. Knobloch lost an iPod and GPS. Later in the evening an Atlanta police officer arrested Todd Hogens.
Police found a loaded .45-caliber Kimber Ultra Carry 2 in Hogens' front pocket.
Within a matter of hours, investigators discovered it was the same weapon a former Henry County deputy reported stolen out of his personal truck 18 months earlier.
"It's kind of scary knowing that it was a cop’s gun and it could have been used in a crime," said Knobloch.
Channel 2 Action News gathered data from August 2012 to August 2013.
Byfield found hundreds of stolen weapons still on the streets of four metro counties.
At the top of the list was the City of Atlanta with 805 stolen guns, then Gwinnett with 337, DeKalb with 296, Cobb with 231, and Fulton with 191.
"Every gun has a story," said ATF Atlanta Field Office Supervisory Special Agent Sonny Fields.
Fields told Byfield that last year alone, 12,602 guns were reported stolen in Georgia.
The most common guns snatched were pistols, revolvers and rifles.
"In the state of Georgia since 2010, just in the state of Georgia, there have been approximately 268 linkages between guns that were recovered and shooting incidents that occurred," said Fields.
The most notable stolen gun in 2013 is probably the AK-47 that Michael Brandon Hill used at a school shooting in DeKalb.
Days after the shooting, which sent children running from their classrooms, police announced that Hill stole the weapon and 500 rounds of ammunition from his roommate.
Atlanta police are using the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, or NIBIN, to track recovered weapons, linking them back to crimes they were used in.
"They have been used in robberies, homicides; a lot of times someone who purchases a gun may not know that it was stolen, so that's always something there," said investigator Jennings Kilgore.
Atlanta police gave Byfield exclusive access to their gun vault.
Officials said there were about 10,000 guns in the vault.
Tags and black sharpie markings on the guns made it easy to spot the stolen ones.
Kilgore has test-fired and run at least 6,000 shell casings through the NIBIN system.
"The potential for linking a homicide to some other case and solving a homicide, that is the ultimate goal," he said.
Channel 2 Action News wanted to know where most stolen guns are recovered and found a surprising answer.
In 2012, it was Marietta and Atlanta.
Most stolen guns in Georgia aren't recovered for at least three years.
Police said it’s difficult to know just how many crimes are committed using stolen guns.