The Main Stream

Apr 16, 2013 1:43 AM by Lupita Murillo

NIBIN system helps track bullet casings like fingerprints

TUCSON - A computer system that links cartridge casings into a data base is helping law enforcement agencies around the country solve violent crimes.
It's called NIBIN, National Integrated Ballistics Information Network.
ATF began the program 14 years ago and places the system in various police agencies around the country.
Tucson Police has been using the system since 2001. It recently upgraded it to a 3 D dimension. In 2007, it provided Tucson Police detectives with crucial information that linked two fired cartridge casings to a homicide in the county and one in the city.

Frank Powell is the Crime Lab Coordinator for the Tucson Police Crime Lab. He says a firearm leaves unique marks on spent shell casings much like a fingerprint. That's how they were able to use NIBIN to link a homicide the Pima County Sheriff's Department was investigating in Madera Canyon to the murder of Rosa Gallego. Her body was found in a motel by the freeway on March 11, 2007. Powell says, "NIBIN gives the department the capability to do data base searches not only to help solve crimes within the city but throughout the state and throughout the country."
The sheriff's case remains open, Tucson Police arrested Manuel Sanchez Hernandez . He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Powell says, "To date we've had right around 65 confirmed hits."
Only recently have some of those hits started rolling in. There are now more personnel manning the system, thanks to a grant. "Between the two employees they are now putting in quite a few cartridges cases I think last quarter they put in over 500."

But 1,200 cases are still backlogged, waiting to be entered into the system. Sgt. Maria Hawke of the Tucson Police Department says, "It helps our investigators not only link crimes but also solve crimes that have happened in our community and get those dangerous criminals off our streets."
So now that the crime lab has trained personnel to process evidence, they're hoping to reduce the number of backlog cases so they can help detectives link fire arms related cases.


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