Solving Gun Crimes Webinar Notes

Why Investigate Gun Crime?

  • To bring justice to victims and perpetrators
  • Provide resolution and some closure for loved ones
  • To restore peace to their neighborhoods.

Information fuels investigations

Evidence powers prosecutions

Three Key Parts to Solving Gun-Related Crime

  • Respond and collect information and evidence
  • Extract and Analyze information and evidence with tools
  • Pursue Information and Evidence – resulting in the apprehension of suspects

Each of these 3 segments are interconnected, with information flowing between these “gaps” and groups of people involved in the investigation.

But there are “gaps” between these functional areas.  And if not careful, information or follow-ups can “fall between the cracks.” So it’s important to manage this information flow carefully.

What does it take to solve gun-related crime?

  • A well-coordinated team to manage the handoffs or exchanges of data/information required.
  • Cooperation (handshakes) and collaboration of investigators, forensic experts and prosecutors, thinking, acting and working together.

The success of these collaborative efforts depends on the team’s balance of people, process and technology.

The Technical Elements of the Gun/Bullet

What is a bullet comprised of?

What are the components of a gun?

The trigger is pulled, the firing pin moves forward. When the soft metal primer is struck, the fire ignites the powder, there’s a rapid burning of explosion some of the gasses are used to eject the cartridge case and feeds another bullet

Handguns hold a wealth of information both on the inside and outside. There are three places where the gun leaves marks on the bullet/casing:

  • Where the firing pin strikes the soft metal primer
  • When the cartridge case when it moves back, it leaves an impression on the primer from the breech face that was holding that cartridge in place
  • As the cartridge case gets expended an ejector also leaves a mark on the outer edge

On the outside of the gun:

  • the make, model, serial number,
  • swab the gun for DNA,
  • process it for latent prints,
  • examine it for trace evidence and bio materials (hair, blood, fibers)

You have to have a process that gathers and manages the information from both inside and outside the gun to help tell the whole story of the crime.


  • IBIS (Intergrated ballistics Identification System) – is the standard technology used in over 70 countries and Interpol.
  • NIBIN (National Integrated Ballistic Information Network) – a program, administered by ATF, used by 1000 state and local partner organizations in the US.
  • NIBIN Lead – IBIS output results – it’s NOT evidence. It’s a high level of confidence, a potential hit or an exhibit of interest.
  • “Hit” – Expert confirmation of a potential candidate link – confirmed as evidence.
  • Crime Gun Tracing – A review of firearms transaction records, the history associated with a particular firearm from manufacturer to sale.
  • eTrace – ATF Electronic Trace system for US sourced guns

in 2012, IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police) – stated that regionally applied crime gun and evidence processing protocols as a best practice for the investigation of firearms related crimes and encourages law enforcement officials, prosecutors and forensic experts to collaborate on the design of mutually agreeable protocols best suited for their region.

Protocols should include:

  • The full investigation of each gun related crime, including the safe and proper collection of all crime guns and related evidence.
  • The performance of appropriate NCIC transactions
  • The timely and comprehensive tracing of all crime guns through ATF and eTrace
  • The timely processing of crime gun test fires and ballistics evidence through NIBIN
  • The timely lab submission and analysis of other forensic data from crime guns and related evidence (eg: DNA, latent fingerprints, trace evidence).
  • The generation, dissemination and investigative follow of the intelligence derived from the application of the regional protocols.

In all of these steps, timeliness is key.

Criminals Move, Evidence Scatters, as an example, one gun, one year in Boston.

11 crimes

Some were just shots fired

Some had victims, and multiple victims

It’s important even when no one was hurt, when there were no victims, it’s still important to collect the information and process it through NIBIN.

3 of the 14 shootings took place outside of Boston (20-25 miles south of Boston.) Normally Brocton and Randolph may not even talk.

These cities are connected by major highways. Criminals move just as we do: riverways, highways, airways. And evidence can be scattered across jurisdictions – which is why it’s important to have regional discussions and agreements.

Is the gun in your murder case hiding in your (or someone else’s) evidence vault?

Example: 68-year old Hazel Love murdered during a drug related home invasion in McCalla, Alabama.

  • Case goes cold for 4 years.
  • Adamsville police arrest 2 felons in an illegal gun possession. Gun is stored.
  • 2 years later (6 years after the murder), Birmingham PD gets info about a series of arsons and invasions and a gun in Adamsville connected to a crime.

A Regional Approach is Needed Today

A regional crime gun processing protocol can be defined as:

  • A set of pre-defined and consistent actions take by police and forensic personnel
  • In geographical areas where armed criminals are most likely tobe crossing multiple police jurisdictions (eg: along major highways used in drug trafficking)
  • Designed to generate maximum actionable intelligence from firearms and ballistics evidence.


Implementation Considerations of Developing a Regional Approach

Leadership team comprised of strategic/policy working group

  • Senior managers from relevant police units
  • Forensic units
  • Federal prosecutors offices
  • State prosecutors offices
  • ATF

This team clears the way, assigns people to attend coordination meetings, change policies, addresses gaps and obstacles to enable cooperation across organizations.

Gun Crime Made a Priority

  • The stakeholders – law enforcement, forensics, prosecutors – should share a common vision
  • With a common vision, current processes should be mapped, choke points and delays identified, measured, and determine what is needed in order to accomplish the vision.

Review IACP Resolution FC.2028.a12

  • Realize there will be tradeoffs.
  • Too many tradeoffs can impact the quality of future investigative work, or react to solving crimes in a sustainable way.

Aim toward Comprehensive Data Collection

  • Determine what data can/should/will be collected

Identify Critical/Important Regional Partners

  • Are there cross-jurisdictional crime patterns that will require inter-agency adherence to these new protocols

Build for Timeliness and Sustainability

  • This will require a balance of people, processes and technology.
  • Even seemingly insignificant “Stop Sign” shootings can be significant.

Learn What’s Working Elsewhere, and Adjust as Needed

  • Identify best practices
  • Guidance exists for most of the obstacles you will encounter

Key Take Aways

  • Make gun crime a clear priority
  • Make the public first: policy leads the way
  • Take a regional approach – involve key stakeholders
  • Timely and sustainable comprehensive data collection and management

People, Process and Technology

Think of these three items as a 3-legged stool that needs to stay in balance.

  • Too many processes – that leg is too long
  • Too few people – the leg will be too short
  • Technology can help keep the stool in balance, but can’t substitute entirely

ATF Specific Resources

  • Extraordinary investigative expertise with special agents and industry Operations Investigators
  • National Resource Centers
    • National Tracing Center (includes Out of Business Dealer Records, eTrace, etc)
    • National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN), and a new National Correlation Center
    • Firearms technology Branch, Firearms Licensing Center, National Registration and Transfer Record
    • 3 Forensic Laboratories
    • Gun and Ammo Detecting K9s
    • Regional Crime Gun Intelligence Centers

ATF Crime Gun Intelligence Centers/”The Denver Approach”

The innovative integration and use of NIBIN crime gun tracing, personnel, partnerships and other technologies to identify serial shooters and their sources of crime guns for immediate disruption, investigation and prosecution.

About 5 years ago (2011), the ATF looked at the applicable use and integration of technology

chose 7 “concept cities” (one was Denver) where the new programs were built from the ground up, changing the culture, beliefs, business and what they thought they knew about gun violence.

Letting go of any long standing beliefs

Admit we don’t know as much about gun violence as we thought

Who commits it, Why it’s committed

Changing beliefs – drugs do fuel violence, but in Denver, they’ve found is that the primary cause for shootings is respect, dominance, retaliation and fights over turf.

It’s important to understand this – because if we don’t understand it then you can’t prevent it.

The Reality of Gun Violence

  • Tends to be more about respect, retaliation, and dominance (gang-related)
  • 6% of gang members are responsible for 70% of the murders
  • 75% of victims and murderers know each other
  • Scope and Results:
    • Depending on the city, 50%-90% of gun violence is gang related
    • 89% shootings take place in public places (innocent people get caught in the crossfire)
    • $229B estimated direct cost of gun violence (medical, incarceration, police, prosecution)
    • $7.48B estimated effect to tax payers
    • From the time a gun is fired, to the apprehension, incarceration, prosecution of the criminal – costs the city $10M

“Timely” – defined as the time it the shooting happens, until the police respond, pick up those shell casings, get it into evidence, and over to the lab for results –  72 hrs or less.

While we might think of things as “ours” – it’s really a team. (Serial shooters don’t go on vacation, retire, etc. It requires a team that stays on the same page and works together as a team.)

There is very little difference between unlawful discharge to murder or attempted murder.

That’s why it’s so important to respond to all shots fired calls.

It used to be so difficult to gather/book in evidence – but now, it’s critical.

Some crime labs “prioritize” their shootings – only putting into evidence into NIBIN from murders – put ALL evidence in regardless of the crime, otherwise, you’re limiting the opportunity  (the small stuff solves big stuff).

It is amazing how many  “shots fired” incidents were actually attempted murders.

Murder is a rare occurrence – focus on being preventative. (People don’t usually hit what they’re aiming at.) In Denver, the statistic is 2% (#of people hit/total shots fired).

Jeff Russell  – ATF NIBIN Branch – he can help your organization establish programs

Additional Resources
8 years ago
Solving Gun Crimes, Identify, Apprehend and Convict (Part Three)
  We investigate crimes of violence in which victims are killed or injured with firearms to […]
8 years ago
Solving Gun Crimes, Extract & Analyze
  We investigate crimes of violence in which victims are killed or injured with firearms to […]
9 years ago
Solving Gun Crime, Part I: Respond and Collect
  We investigate crimes of violence in which victims are killed or injured with firearms to […]