Webinar presenters Justin Holloway, Suzann Cromer and Mike Eberhardt answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Incorporating the Minimum Required Operating Standards into Your Agency’s NIBIN Organizational Lifestyle. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: What approach would you take if police indicate that they cannot submit Firearms evidence to the lab any faster than they already do such as in seven days?
Suzann Cromer: Well as a state lab, if they’re saying they can’t get it here until seven days after the crime really they’re only hurting themselves. We can’t dictate when they bring it to us, but we can dictate how timely we can turn it around. If they do bring it in within seven days of the crime. We’re going to get it entered, we’re going to get it correlated, and we’re going to get their leads back to them as soon as possible. We are an assistance agency so we can’t tell them, “no, sorry. It’s already 7 days old”. What we do tell people is if you do have a backlog of stuff, the older cases are going to wait, the newer first. So that’s how we really approach that.
Audience Question: I think this probably is for you as well Suzanne. How do you handle an appointment with an agency that has 50 or more cartridge casings for a single case?
Suzann Cromer: What we do here – Most of us are firearms examiners that handle the NIBIN program. If we do have a large triage case coming in we get another Firearms examiner to assist. First, we will separate them out by caliber so we can potentially have two different firearms examiner’s triaging and then one doing the entry/acquisition. So if they (an agency) tells us in advance that they’re going to have a large shooting coming in, we typically have more Personnel to help triage.
Audience Question: Do analysts at SLED provide an operability test-fire report when test-firing other agencies firearms?
Suzann Cromer: No, we don’t. If they want an operability report, they would need to submit it through the traditional lab means. Obviously, if we get test specimens from it, it was functional, but we do not offer an operability report.
Audience Question: Does your lab have ANAB accreditation and also if an officer leaves the test-fired cartridge case at the lab, will they then get logged in and assigned a lab number?
Suzann Cromer: Our lab does have accreditation status. We did not seek it for the EBA program at this time, but we plan to in the future. I’m going to try to get accreditation status for our IBIS program. We do not treat test fires as evidence, we treat them as work product. We keep an EBA form with them, that form is signed and dated when they were entered so that way the next time that agency comes into the laboratory, we just hand them the test specimens back with their EBA form. I believe I answered most of those parts of that question.
Audience Question: Do you have any data on whether there is more evidence being recovered from incidents by officers thus resulting in an increased number of NIBIN entries?
Suzann Cromer: hat’s for me. I do not have more data on that. I know since Columbia PD has gotten ShotSpotter; I know we’re getting more entries from them. We’ve actually partnered with them a lot on the on their crime gun intelligence taskforce, but I do not have data on the increase of shootings in the state.
Audience Question: Got it. Mike, Justin, have you heard anything with other agencies you’ve worked with about whether or not they’re seeing an increase in the number of NIBIN entries?
Mike Eberhardt: I just wanted to say that this is the program feeds itself. The success, the quick turnarounds turn into really great successes, which turned into a more comprehensive collection which turns into more entries and being picked up by law enforcement submitted to the laboratory. So it sort of feeds itself this program. So successful programs always increase in volume. I think that that’s been pretty much the way it goes.
Justin Holloway: Yeah, I agree a hundred percent and here in South Carolina. I just recently was reviewing the stats. The nation had a 3.3 percent reduction in violent crime in 2018 per FBI stats. 2019 stats are still being calculated. We had a little less of a reduction in South Carolina. But we also in some of our main target areas, we had a higher number of homicides. With that said obviously that’s terrible. With that said, we also had other clearance rates on those. We’re just as high or higher and we’ve identified through NIBIN that a lot of these shootings, even if they weren’t if they’re a non-fatal shooting or just or kind of drive-by shooting into a dwelling involved a lot of the same actors. When we were able to show that information and Suzanne and I did a big presentation in October and all of a sudden you had different agencies who didn’t previously participate in the SLED entry-by appointment program started to bring in their all their casings down. You know it really as Mike said it kind of fed itself and was self-promoting because we are getting the results that we hope for.
Suzann Cromer: If I can add something to that. I was going to say we’ve also been fortunate enough in this state that has the ATF’s NIBIN mobile unit NETCOM several times. I have seen once that unit leaves that particular area, our appointment requests from that area have just skyrocketed because they’ve been so used to using NIBIN. Even if they weren’t (participating in NIBIN) prior to the mobile unit being there, after it leaves they don’t want to stop.
Audience Question: We also have a question from Mara asking if anyone has a copy or know so she might be able to get a copy of the Rutgers NIBIN study. She hasn’t been able to find a copy anywhere or if you can provide some ideas.
Mike Eberhardt: That is an interesting sort of slippery study. I have and probably she has in her possession the PowerPoint that they put together relative to the study and I’ve been in touch with New Jersey State Police and Rutgers and I didn’t get a response from Rutgers from New Jersey State Police. They provided the PowerPoint as well. I’m assuming she has the PowerPoint. If not, I can make it available. But as an absolute study. I’m not sure one exists. I think they did it on PowerPoint. If you look at it closely kind of has the appearance. So I think that might not even as a paper, published study might not even exist.
Audience Question: Suzann, James is wondering how many NIBIN terminals you currently have?
Suzann Cromer: We only had the one until last October. We got a Project Safe Neighborhood grant for a second terminal, which has been wonderful.
Audience Question: Do you have any influence on the agencies that submit test fires to your agency? If so, how did you get them on board to provide test-fires instead of participating in the ABA process?
Suzann Cromer: A lot of that is from our local ATF. If we hear of an agency that has maybe a large backlog of firearms that they’ve confiscated, then all of a sudden they want to participate in the EBA program; I will get them in touch with a local ATF agent. So ATF can help them figure out how to best test fire these firearms. Again, we tell them the newest guns confiscated first, but typically that’s where we use our resources of our local ATF agents. We get them to assist with the test-firing if that agency wants to test fire their own.
Audience Question: Knoxville Tennessee is the largest law enforcement agency in East Tennessee. Brian is growing his NIBIN program and doing NIBIN work for multiple surrounding agencies. Do any of you have suggestions for a length of time to retain NIBIN test-fired cartridge cases for their agencies, for their agency as well as those that I’m serving?
Suzann Cromer: I can take this. After we test fire, we enter those test-fires, then we give them back to the agency. We do put a lovely little bright green sticker on it (test fires and evidence packaging) that asks that they keep their evidence or test specimens for two years. Now, we do insist if they sell it or if they returned the gun to an owner, perhaps it was stolen, that they call and let us know so we can change the status in NIBIN to test-fire return. We explain it to them because most of them don’t understand that once the gun is confiscated and entered into NIBIN, it’s not correlated against later dates or later incidents. So, if they call and let us know and that’s what that sticker is there for a reminder. It’s a big reminder to say if we’re going to get rid of this, why don’t we, you know, give SLED a call and just tell them that we’re selling it or we’re returning it to the owner so it can be correlated against new crimes. Our standard rules some on our sticker says to keep for two years, but we typically haven’t seen leads that old.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Incorporating the Minimum Required Operating Standards into Your Agency’s NIBIN Organizational Lifestyle.