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DAs, ATF and HIDTA Announce Game-Changer to Fight Gun Violence

From a press release

The district attorneys for Montgomery, Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties announced Wednesday that a new device obtained by Montgomery County will be used to dramatically cut down on gun violence by more rapidly tracing ammunition used in crimes more.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele, Chester County District Attorney Deborah Ryan, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub, ATF Philadelphia Field Division Special Agent in Charge Eric DeGree and Liberty MidAtlantic High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Deputy Director Brian Michael announced Wednesday the acquisition of an ATF NIBIN machine.

The machine acquired by Montgomery County with federal funds will be used by all four suburban Philadelphia counties to dramatically upgrade law enforcement’s investigations, prosecutions and deterrence of gun crimes. NIBIN, which stands for the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, is a network database of fired cartridge casings (FCCs) from crime guns across the United States. Because each firearm leaves its own signature on bullet casings when a gun is fired—a unique set of scratches, grooves and/or dents—the NIBIN system can quickly compare these individual bullet casing “fingerprints” against its six million FCC database and create a list of high-probability matches.

From there, those hits are confirmed by a firearms examiner and then become investigative leads for detectives to use. Detectives will systemically look at the NIBIN leads and evidence of each case to determine the connections and suspects. Two types of FCC evidence are inputted into NIBIN: FCCs recovered at the scene of violent crimes and FCCs obtained from seized firearms that are test fired.

Those FCCs from Montgomery, Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties will be transported to the Montgomery County Detective Bureau’s Forensic Lab within 48 hours and then inputted into NIBIN. The results will then be sent back to the originating county for detective review and follow up. The quicker any resulting hits are obtained, the more useful the investigative lead is in terms of solving the crime at hand as well as interrupting the shooting cycle and disrupting the organizations operating in gun trafficking and gun violence.

“This is a game-changer in combatting gun crimes and gun violence. With this NIBIN portal, Montgomery County and the surrounding counties are in position to be able to quickly respond to gun crimes that are linked together in a timely manner and disrupt the shooting cycle by these trigger pullers,” said Steele. “We in Montgomery, Bucks, Chester and Delaware counties have not been immune to regional gun crimes and gun violence spilling over into our counties and all of us, along with our federal partners, are committed to responding vigorously and stopping this gun violence that threatens the safety of our communities.”

The funding for the NIBIN machine came from the Liberty Mid-Atlantic HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area), a federal program that fosters initiatives and inter-agency cooperation to curtail drug trafficking in the Delaware Valley. Crime data shows that gun traffickers are frequently involved in drug trafficking and drug traffickers are often heavily armed with illegally obtained firearms.

“The Liberty Mid-Atlantic HIDTA is proud to make investments in technologies for our region’s local, state and federal law enforcement agencies that enhance their capabilities to thwart the illegal firearms trade, drug trafficking and the violence that so often comes with both,” said HIDTA’s Brian Michael. “We are confident that the acquisition of the NIBIN system for this multi-county collaboration will succeed in accelerating investigative successes when gunfire breaks out and will lead to safer communities in Philadelphia and its suburbs.”

The ATF launched the national NIBIN program in 1997, and the number of NIBIN sites has grown steadily since, now numbering 293 systems around the country. There are seven in Pennsylvania, including two in the region housed in the Philadelphia Police Department and in Berks County.

“NIBIN sites help to combat violent crime, promote public and officer safety, and identify/target shooters before they can re-offend. Since ATF launched this national program in 1997, the NIBIN system has identified more than 722,000 NIBIN leads in the ongoing efforts to find serial shooters and stop the shooting cycle,” said SAC Eric DeGree. “Thanks to the Liberty Mid-Atlantic HIDTA, investigators in four counties will be able to utilize a new NIBIN site housed in Montgomery County.”

Montgomery County has also created a new Gun Violence Reduction Task Force made up of more than 100 detectives and police officers from Montgomery County police departments. Task Force members, who were being sworn in and trained Wednesday, will work alongside the Montgomery County Detective Bureau’s Violent Crimes Unit in investigating gun trafficking organizations and gun crimes throughout the county, including running down NIBIN-generated leads.

“We are working at being at the forefront of investigating and prosecuting gun trafficking in the region, and we’ve obtained some significant sentences in our county for these crimes that are an extreme threat to the safety of our communities,” said Steele. “Now we have at our disposal cutting-edge technology in NIBIN and more law enforcement boots on the ground to take it to the next level in fighting gun crimes. This is just the next big step—but not the last—in our overall goal to make communities in Montgomery County and surrounding counties safer.”

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