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ATF Charlotte using new unit to help local law enforcement trace ballistics

The unit provides a space where law enforcement can fire guns recovered at crime scenes.
Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 8:11 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 20, 2021 at 11:31 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Investigators from the Charlotte Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are using a new unit to help trace ballistics recovered from crime scenes in the Carolinas.

The unit is part of the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) Program. The program allows for law enforcement to analyze shell casings and determine whether certain firearms can be linked to different crimes across the country.

The NIBIN unit, which consists of a van and trailer filled with ATF equipment, is currently stationed outside of the Charlotte Field Division office.

“It’s one of two units in the country we have. We’ve had a lot of success with really crimes within the Carolinas,” said David Ford, supervisor of the ATF Charlotte Crime Gun Intelligence Center.

The unit allows detectives to run shell casings through a computer program linked to the NIBIN database. It also provides a space where law enforcement can fire guns recovered at crime scenes. This allows detectives the opportunity to retrieve shell casing samples to run through the system.

“What this technology does, it maps it and compares it to probably at this point, hundreds of thousands of other casings that have been recovered throughout the country,” explained Ford.

The supervisor said the NIBIN Program allows law enforcement to link different guns to different crimes. He said local police agencies also appreciate how quickly the NIBIN Program analyzes ballistics. He explained that sending shell casings to labs and waiting for results can take weeks whereas the NIBIN program takes just days to analyze a shell casing and link it other crimes.

Tim Aycock, public information officer for the Matthews Police Department, said detectives from his agency have already utilized the NIBIN unit. He said they appreciate how quickly they can get results.

“To us that’s the biggest part of it. We can get that information back so much faster and keep building our case and our detectives don’t have to really wait on it and we don’t want the case to get cold or stagnant by any means and this will get it to us quicker,” explained Aycock.

Ford said the NIBIN unit has only been in Charlotte a few weeks, but it is already helping local law enforcement agencies.

“It was another significant shooting in this area and we were able to get the cartridge, input it into the system and get a hit back linking that shooting to an unsolved homicide,” explained Ford.

He said the NIBIN unit will be kept in Charlotte a few more months, but will then be taken to Raleigh and Wilmington so other local law enforcement agencies can utilize the equipment.

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