Chicago Police Gain Access To ATF Ballistics Van To Fight Gun Crimes

CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago police are getting some help from the feds that will help them test ballistics on the spot after a shooting.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, and Chicago police officials will announce Monday that the city will get access to new federal law enforcement resources, including a new mobile ballistics lab operated by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

The ballistics van is part of the ATF’s National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN).

The mobile lab allows authorities to test-fire guns recovered at crime scenes. Shell casings from the street also can be entered into the NIBIN, which works like a fingerprint database, and can link ballistics evidence to previously unsolved cases.

The mobile ballistics lab is able to collect unique information from a bullet, then track the gun, and connect the weapon to other crimes in which it has been used.

The announcement of the new ATF ballistics van in Chicago comes as Chicago police seek to get a handle the summer spike in gun violence. So far in June, more than 320 people have been shot in Chicago, including at least 46 people this weekend.

Operated by the ATF, the van has been on loan to the city since the beginning of June. The van already has processed 100 entries from Chicago shooting scenes, and connected 80 percent of those entries to previous crimes.

The first weekend, crews collected more evidence than during the entire month the van was in Baltimore in May.

Information from 20,000 guns from across the U.S. is added to the NIBIN each month.

The ATF said it has been using NIBIN since the 1990s, and the technology has progressed a great deal.

“It’s far advanced now, compared to then, with the 3-D imaging, HD 3-D capabilities, so it’s really come a long way in the last 20-some years of existence, and the program has grown,” ATF Chicago spokesman David Coulson said.

Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said NIBIN’s tools work a lot faster than the Chicago Police Department’s usual ballistics resources.

“Combined with the Safe Neighborhoods Act, this partnership with ATF will help us both track down gun offenders, and make sure they pay the price for their actions in court,”

The van is scheduled to be in Chicago for 60 days, but Johnson said he hopes it can stay longer.

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