Police in Aurora, Ill., Receive Ballistic Imaging Tech

The in-house technology documents and matches bullet casings found at crime scenes in the hopes of finding the weapon they came from.

by Megan Jones, The Beacon-News / December 20, 2018

(TNS) — Every gun has its own fingerprint, and new ballistic equipment given to the Aurora Police Department aims to help suburban police solve gun-related crimes.

The department was one of 22 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. to be awarded ballistic imaging equipment that will capture data and document shell casings left behind at gun-related crime scenes.

Authorities hope the in-house technology will lead to quicker information and help relieve an overwhelmed state crime lab, said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Brendan Iber of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“It’s similar to matching someone's fingerprints at one crime scene to someone’s prints at another,” Iber said. “It’s another investigative tool for us to get information between two different crime scenes.”

Aurora police began using the equipment in July and held a news conference Wednesday to show how the equipment can help match two crimes scenes together. So far, the technology has given Aurora police 18 leads in gun-related cases, Officer Scott Reed said.

The Aurora station was chosen due to its centralized location to the seven collar counties the technology will be available for: DuPage, Kendall, Kane, Grundy, Lake, LaSalle and Will. So far, Joliet and Bolingbrook police departments have partnered with Aurora to use the technology.

Shell casings police recovered at crime scenes are entered into a machine, which takes 3D microscopic images of the markings a gun leaves. Each gun carries its own unique identifier, like a fingerprint.

Then, police can analyze the pictures to find comparisons, matching crimes scenes together.

The Chicago Police Department has its own machinery, and this is the same technology that helped police determine the same gun was used in back-to-back killings in Rogers Park on Sept. 30.

The information is then entered into a national database, known as NIBIN, that other law enforcement agencies can access.

“Crime doesn’t know boundaries,” Iber said. “Criminals don’t get to the city limits and say oh, we need to turn around. They go to different areas, counties and states, and NIBIN helps bridge those gaps, showing these individuals are using the same firearms in two different areas.”

The technology has been in place since the 1990s in state crime labs, but now police departments will be able to complete their own testing at a faster rate.

“The labs have a lot of important things to do, with DNA and drug analysis, and they are very inundated,” Iber said. “These are high probability correlations that give detectives suspect leads early on in the case, when previously it would take months.”

Detective Memo Trujillo said before, it would take six months to a year to get information back from the lab. Now, police are able to give detectives information within the same shift.

The lab also takes cases in order of importance, so a casing from a house that was hit by a bullet could be at the bottom of the list. By the time information is returned, witnesses’ memories have faded and residents may have moved, Trujillo said.

“The efforts of the Illinois State Police labs and ATF labs are amazing, but if we can help by taking this off their plate, then they can do even better service for DNA, fingerprint examination,” Iber said. “They do so much, so this assists detectives, lightens the load of the laboratories and gets us moving faster on solving violent crimes.”

The machinery was given to police through a U.S. Department of Justice grant and costs between $200,000 and $250,000, Iber said.

“We know a small number of individuals are committing the most crimes,” Iber said. “If we can get violent criminals off the street quickly and timely, they don’t have the chance to re-offend.”

©2018 The Beacon-News (Aurora, Ill.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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