Reducing Violent Crime One Case(ing) at a Time

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April 6, 2017

On March 15, 2015, Marcus Ladson killed Curtis Avent in Cleveland as part of a shooting spree in revenge for the gang-related killing of his cousin. Without eyewitnesses or DNA evidence, there were few leads. Through the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN), investigators were able to link shell casings from the crime scene to four prior incidents. With evidence from the casings, the Cleveland Police Department arrested Ladson for burglary and felonious assault on March 26, 2015, and recovered the handgun NIBIN linked to the Avent murder and the other incidents. On June 7, 2015, a court sentenced Ladson to 126 years to life in prison for murder, felonious assault and felon in possession of a firearm.

The value of NIBIN is in its ability to help the justice system stop criminals who are using guns to repeatedly commit violent acts. When used effectively, NIBIN addresses violent crime through an automated process to evaluate ballistic evidence on a national scale and match it with evidence left at other crime scenes. This forensic process aids investigators in gathering enough evidence for a successful arrest, and helps prosecutors build a strong case against the shooter, linking gun crimes to incidents where previously there were no known connections.

Prior to NIBIN firearms examiners performed this labor-intensive task manually, comparing ballistic fingerprints with microscopes and keeping an archive of Polaroid pictures. By helping local police agencies link multiple crimes committed with the same gun, NIBIN is working to identify suspects and possibly increase the number of charges against repeat offenders.  When NIBIN is used as a crime gun intelligence tool, police agencies are able to take acquired evidence and put together cases that were, only a decade ago, considered unsolvable.  

NIBIN success requires adherence to four critical steps:

  • Comprehensive Collection and Entry: Partner agencies must collect and submit all evidence suitable for entry into NIBIN, regardless of crime. Evidence includes both cartridge cases recovered from crime scenes and test fires from recovered crime guns.
  • Timely Turnaround: Violent crime investigations can go cold very quickly, so the goal is to enter the evidence into the network as quickly as possible in order to identify potential NIBIN Leads, and subsequently providing this relevant and actionable intelligence to the investigators.
  • Investigative Follow-Up and Prosecution: Linking otherwise unassociated crimes gives investigators a better chance to identify and arrest shooters before they reoffend.
  • Feedback Loop: Without feedback, NIBIN partners cannot know how their efforts are making the community safer, which is necessary for sustained success.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, works to implement NIBIN in strategic locations of the country with the goal of giving investigators an edge in our mutual fight against firearms related violence. Since the program’s inception in 1999, NIBIN partners have captured approximately 3 million images of ballistic evidence and confirmed more than 88,000 NIBIN hits.  The true performance metric of NIBIN, however, is the successful arrest and prosecution of shooters.

While there is no one approach to solving violent gun crime, NIBIN is a proven crime gun intelligence tool available to law enforcement to strengthen and unify federal, state and local government coordination. By quickly sharing information across a national network, investigators are able to better examine gun crime evidence and effectively build a case against gun crime violence one casing at a time.

For more information, read the NIBIN fact sheet and visit www.atf.gov/firearms/national-integrated-ballistic-information-network-nibin.