Suspected gang members raided serial burglar Luke Reich's home looking for stolen firearms while he was on remand in jail, The Star can reveal.
But police had got there first, finding about 15 shotguns and rifles - some hidden in an electric piano - in the Burnham house.
Constable Chris Caldwell said it was a relief that the weapons had ended up in police hands, rather than the alternative.
"We all know that firearms get stolen occasionally and we hope they don't end up in the hands of gangs and the like, but we know some of them probably do," he said.
"To be able to retrieve those ones before possible gang members got hold of them is good for the safety of everyone, including police."
Yesterday, Reich, 21, was sentenced to two years, nine months imprisonment and ordered to pay $10,268 in reparations for 26 burglaries, 10 thefts and six charges of unlawfully interfering with cars.
He stole numerous firearms during his crime spree which took place, mostly in the Selwyn district, between November and February.
Police believe gang members may have got their information about the stolen firearms, which they believed were still in the Burnham house, from prison intelligence while Reich was in custody.
Guns can sell for hundreds of dollars on Christchurch's black market and have become an item of choice for burglars who are targeting homes where they know there are firearms.
Police say the illicit drug trade is fuelling the need for criminals to arm themselves and gangs are key players. They are also being used in armed robberies.
There has been a spate of armed hold-ups in recent weeks in Christchurch at bakeries, bars and fast food outlets.
At yesterday's sentencing in the district court, it was revealed that Reich deliberately avoided taking children's Christmas presents during his pre-Christmas burglaries.
Judge David Saunders said he accepted that Reich was remorseful for what he had done and that he appeared to have a conscience.
He also noted that Reich's employment issues and drug and alcohol problems had been factors in his offending.
In not setting a longer prison sentence he had taken into account Reich's lack of previous offending, his remorse and his potential to make reparations to his victims.
Defence counsel Phillip Allan said Reich would sell his motorcycle to put towards reparations and, upon release, would live with his parents while working to pay off the rest of the money.
"He wants to put things right," Mr Allan said.
Judge Saunders recommended that Reich be assessed for a drug and alcohol treatment programme.
Reich was caught on February 13 by Rolleston area resident Chris Flanagan who disturbed him in his garage early in the morning and tackled him as he tried to escape.