TUCSON, ARIZ.—For the first time, firearms seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agencies in Arizona were test-fired recently for cross-matching through the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network for links to other crime scenes. This coordination effort was conducted through the CBP Anti-Gang Initiative with the Phoenix Police Department, Gun Enforcement Squad.
According to Jeffrey Self, commander of the Joint Field Command - Arizona, this initiative is an example of CBP's commitment to working with state, local and federal law enforcement partners.
"I am proud that CBP has long standing relationships with other law enforcement agencies from the local to federal levels," he said. "If one of these firearms we seized leads to solving an open case and taking a dangerous person off the streets, then all our efforts are worth it.
"We will continue to assist and cooperate with our partners to ensure a safe environment along our borders and in our communities," said Self.
CBP officials transported seized firearms to the Arizona Law Enforcement Academy Firearms Range in Phoenix on Jan. 5, to determine if any of the weapons were used in the commission of a crime. Officials could not release any information about the weapons test-fired due to ongoing investigations but did say any positive match results will be communicated to the appropriate investigating law enforcement agency.
NIBIN was launched in 1990 by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and provides a unique opportunity to link cases involving the use of firearms and provide leads that would have otherwise been impossible without this technology.
When an exemplar (pattern) from a test-fire or evidence scene casing is entered into the NIBIN database, it could take as little as an hour or two to get the entry analyzed to see if there are any possible hits. If a possible hit is identified, it is confirmed by a firearms examiner.
It is important to note, according to PPD officials, that once a test-fire or evidence scene casing has been entered and correlated, the image remains in the database and is compared against future entries. So, for a particular entry, even though a hit may not be immediately identified during the correlation process, there is the possibility for that entry to hit against future entries days, weeks, months or years later - which is often the case.
According to information published in a PPD brochure on NIBIN, something as minor as criminal mischief could lead to solving a cold case murder. Sometimes suspects are eliminated and there are no positive leads, however, one expended casing or test-fire from a found gun could later produce a lead. A dozen police departments in the Phoenix metro area participate in the NIBIN program.
Four agencies in the Phoenix metropolitan area operate Integrated Ballistic Information System units: PPD, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and Mesa Police Department. CBP plans to participate and will conduct future ballistics testing.