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Study Identifies Ways To Improve ATF Ballistic Evidence Program

NCJ Number
NIJ Journal Issue: 274 Dated: 2014 Pages: 12-18
Date Published
October 2014
6 pages
Publication Series
This study, which was funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), recommends ways to improve the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive's (ATF's) National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN), so as to improve its value as an investigative tool for crimes that involve guns.
Firearm examiners at State and local crime laboratories compare tool marks on spent cartridge or bullets found at a crime scene to digitize images of ballistic evidence in the NIBIN database. State and local law enforcement agencies (called "NIBIN sites") are responsible for entering data into the nationwide NIBIN database and following up on hits. This study concluded that delays in processing ballistic evidence constitute the greatest threat to the utility of NIBIN as an investigative tool. A variety of reasons for these delays were identified. Some delays are imposed on laboratories by outside agencies and others result from inefficient laboratory procedures. In addition, data are clogged within the NIBIN system because labs can only access NIBIN data by viewing it on a screen or printing paper reports. Another reason for delay is because investigators must access NIBIN through laboratory firearms sections. At NIBIN sites, it is often difficult for investigators to request NIBIN searches. Further, at the Federal level, there are insufficient numbers of ATF personnel to analyze and disseminate NIBIN data to local agencies. Among the recommendations of this study of 19 of the 150 nationwide NIBIN sites are creating standardized measures for evaluating the performance of local NIBIN sites; developing a software program to add other criminal intelligence to NIBIN reports; demonstration projects that highlight successful strategic uses of NIBIN; improving cooperation among all stakeholders; and ATF testing of innovative practices at NIBIN sites.

Date Published: October 1, 2014