Technology, more prosecutions set to target violent crime in western Virginia

Published: May. 25, 2023 at 7:09 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Federal, state and local authorities are turning to technology in their fight against violent crime. And they are promising to prosecute crimes the system identifies.

During a news conference Thursday morning, U.S. Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh touted technology developed by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

It analyzes shell casings found at crime scenes and compares them with other records in a national database. The process, the ATF says, can help reveal hidden connections between violent crimes.

“This is NIBIN, the National Integrated Ballistics Identification Network,” said Forensic Firearms and Tool Mark Examiner Walter Dandridge, as he demonstrated the system for reporters.

“We have an acquisition station to acquire fired cartridge cases, and we have a reviewing station to identify whether we have a NIBIN lead or not,” Dandridge said.

The system has a long and successful track record, linking shell casings fired by the same gun.

“The most important thing is that firing-pin impression that is left on the back of that shell casing,” said Kavanaugh. “That is akin to a fingerprint.”

Kavanaugh said he hopes more agencies will make consistent use of the NIBIN system, and he is pledging to prosecute crimes the NIBIN system reveals.

“More suspects will be identified. More suspects will be arrested. More violent crimes will be closed. More people will be held accountable, and when more people see that, more people will be deterred from violent crime. Our communities will be safer and our citizens will feel safer,” Kavanaugh said.

Danville Police Chief Scott Booth said his department has had more than 350 NIBIN hits since 2018.

“I think anything... that can help us identify the weapons that are being used in crimes, the number of weapons, if weapons are linked from different crime scenes, identify offenders, all of that is invaluable information to have early on in an investigation,” Booth told WDBJ7. “So we are true believers.”

The system has been around since the late ‘90s, but access has been an issue, especially for smaller departments.

Virginia State Police have acquired the system. Agents are now training at the Salem Field Office, and eventually they hope to work with local departments that could benefit from the NIBIN technology.