Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2017, $247,979)
Although violent crime rates in Chicago and across the country have been declining for many years, an escalation in Chicago gun violence that began late in 2015 has continued into 2017.
Nearly half of a national homicide rate increase in 2016 has been attributed to Chicago alone (in 2015, Chicago recorded 2,996 shooting victims and 473 homicides; in 2016, 4,331 shooting victims and 760 homicides). In 2016, the Chicago Police Department Ballistics Lab processed 19,395 cases, uploaded 11,147 entries to NIBIN, and issued 1,145 NIBIN Leads. Despite this activity, CPD is challenged by declining violent crime clearance rates.
Some of this decline can be attributed to eroding public trust in the police as a consequence of highly publicized violent encounters between police officers and community members in Chicago and around the nation. Increased public perceptions of a "blue code of silence" and insufficient police accountability have made it more unlikely that angry and discouraged community members will engage proactively with police and cooperate with police investigations.
However, it is also true that low clearance rates for gun-related violence can be directly attributed to pressures on technology and personnel resources resulting from the sheer volume of firearm and ballistic evidence to be processed and inadequacy in the number of CPD IBIS acquisition stations and Ballistics Lab personnel trained to conduct comparative ballistic analysis on IBIS results.
These factors combined have caused backlogs in the processing of forensic firearms evidence that can be stored for up to eight weeks before Ballistics Lab personnel can process the evidence.
CPD is responding to these investigative issues and needs by requesting FY 2017 Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grant funding to improve Ballistics Lab capacity by purchasing: 1) an additional IBIS 3D BRASSTRAX Acquisition Station that will allow Ballistic Lab personnel to upload as many as thirty (30) additional IBIS entries per day; 2) a 24-week advanced firearms and ballistics comparative analysis course for experienced Ballistics Lab personnel in order to increase the number of qualified firearms examiners from two to fifteen; and 3) supply items to decrease latent print processing times from recovered evidence including firearms.
This project will measurably improve violent crime clearance rates, thereby decreasing gun violence in Chicago, by: 1) reducing case evidence processing backlogs and delays; 2) improving forensic quality of processed case evidence; and 3) by providing more usable and timely investigative leads from processed evidence.