Police departments are increasingly turning to the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, a central catalog of more than three million detailed images of spent shell casings, to hunt down suspects and not just to help prosecutors win convictions after an arrest.
Thanks in part to an aggressive campaign over the past two years to promote police use of a central catalog of more than three million detailed images of spent shell casings, police departments are increasingly turning to the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network to hunt down suspects and not just to help prosecutors win convictions after an arrest, The New York Times reports. The latest in the Times‘ “American Ammo” series on the business and regulation of bullets describes how more officers are now taking the time to collect shell casings from petty crimes and nonviolent shootings, like when joy riders use stop signs for target practice, because they may eventually help solve more dangerous acts of violence.
Overseen by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the NIBIN database can identify whether the same gun was used in multiple shootings. The equipment for scanning and analyzing bullet casings can cost up to $175,000, and although the ATF sometimes subsidizes this expense, most police departments have to find a way to pay for it themselves. Eleven states still do not have a terminal. But nearly 200 law enforcement agencies — up from 140 in 2012 — now own terminals that allow them to tap into the data, and a clearinghouse in Alabama has reduced turnaround times on potential matches from weeks to mere days. The number of matches nationwide jumped to 47,000 this fiscal year from 11,000 three years ago. Last month, the Justice Department and the ATF delivered new machines to nearly two dozen police departments, vowing that investigative leads would be sent to them within 48 hours of their entering ballistics information into the system.