Law enforcement using social media to find illegal guns

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Gang officers around the Valley are taking more illegal guns off the streets, and they say they're finding them posted by criminals on social media.

"We're looking for gang members posting things about guns or being involved in criminal activity," said Sgt. Paul Cervantes, Fresno Police.

We're not even half way through the year and gang officers say they've already recovered at least two thirds of what they took from criminals all of last year. And some of those they're finding thanks to Facebook and Twitter.

As an example, one handgun was taken from 26-year-old Adrian Santana. The multi-agency gang enforcement consortium says Santana posted this photo of the gun on Facebook with the caption "just picked this up today." His prior domestic violence convictions prohibit Santana from owning a gun.

"So if you're one of those individuals, i.e. a gang member or prohibited person, and you're in possession of a firearm, be weary of the fact that folks like MAGEC are going to looking for you," said Sgt. Cervantes.

Sgt. Paul Cervantes leads one of several MAGEC units. He says so far this year his unit has taken 77 illegal guns of the streets of Fresno. Last year that total was 124 -- a number his team will likely shatter by December.

"Out of the 77 firearms that my team has collected about 8 to 9 have come by virtue of Facebook," said Cervantes.

He says MAGEC officers are constantly on social media. "We infiltrate those websites by virtue of having covert of fake identities. And the purpose behind that is to look for individuals that are obviously in violation of the law."

Illegal guns are still taken by traditional police tactics, such as traffic stops and warrant searches.

An informant tip led detectives to an illegal rifle and shotgun. Their owner, 25-year-old gang member Ryan Sharton. Cervantes says Sharton admitted to owning the guns, but has not yet turned himself in.

On May 1st, police recovered another arsenal of weapons in West Central Fresno that they say were being purchased legally, but passed on illegally to gang members. A common way to get guns in the wrong hands, they say.

Sgt. Cervantes said, "Other ways is making purchases out of state, then they filter them this way. We even them go as far as building their own firearm."

Police can't quite say whether the amount of guns recovered reflects the fact that more guns are on the streets. Either way, they say they're pushing to eliminate as many illegal weapons as possible.
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