There has been a stark increase in gun violence over the last few years, and law enforcement agencies, facing budget cuts and fewer resources, are feeling underequipped and overburdened.
In major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, agencies are sometimes receiving as many as 1500 NIBIN leads per month, leaving a major chasm between the level of gun crime and the number of officers available to follow up and manage cases.
Given the realities of today’s climate, speed and efficiency are more critical than ever when solving violent gun crimes. This heightened focus on efficiency has also brought a heightened focus on case organization and management, but case management has its own complexities as well.
Solving Gun Crimes: The Current State of Case Management
The reality is that case management is currently not standardized. More often than not, it’s disjointed, with different state and federal agencies solving gun crime tracking information in different ways — and often with spreadsheets. This presents a variety of logistical challenges and inefficiencies. For example, there are often huge redundancies in the input of manual entry, with investigators and analysts sometimes inputting the same case information for a single gun crime case into five different systems.
The NIBIN Enforcement Support System (NESS), maintained by the ATF, serves as the national repository for NIBIN information pertaining to firearms and other ballistic evidence used in the commission of a crime. But without a comprehensive case management solution and strategy, leveraging NESS alone won’t be enough to ensure that potential leads don’t slip through the cracks.
There are four valuable technologies that, when used in tandem with NESS, can help agencies effectively combat gun crime — ShotSpotter Respond, NIBIN, COPLINK X, and ShotSpotter Investigate. In the next section, we’ll discuss each in more detail and the valuable role they play in this process.
More than 80 percent of gunfire incidents nationwide are not reported to the police, a staggering statistic. ShotSpotter Respond fills this troublesome gap with networks of acoustic sensors that can detect, locate and alert police of gunfire — often in under 60 seconds. Leveraging ShotSpotter Respond enables a far greater level of shell casing recovery compared to a scene where, either no one called 911, or the actual location of the gunfire cannot be determined. With ShotSpotter Respond, more shell casings can then ultimately be fed to NIBIN.
The National Integrated Ballistic Information Network is a program overseen by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that automates ballistics evaluations and provides investigative leads to law enforcement agencies. This tool allows investigators to share information with each other, improving their overall effectiveness in closing cases.
According to the ATF Report Crime Gun Intelligence: An Evidence-Based Approach to Solving Violent Crime there are four best practices for NIBIN sites. They are:
- Comprehensive Collection: This is the foundation of NIBIN. ShotSpotter Respond is a critical technology to help with this — after all, investigators will be able to collect more evidence if they are alerted to gun crimes that would have otherwise gone unreported, and can actually find the shell casings once they arrive.
- Timeliness – Violent crime investigations can go cold quickly. ShotSpotter Respond is also pivotal for this, as Respond alerts prompt officers to arrive at scenes quickly.
- Investigative Follow-Up – NIBIN provides valuable links between investigations, and aids in the prosecution of associated violent crime and shooters. COPLINK X and ShotSpotter Investigate, with their advanced analytic capabilities which we will detail in the next section, can also be extremely helpful with this step as well.
- Feedback – Feedback for all parties involved in the NIBIN process is vital to sustaining a successful NIBIN program. We will discuss how ShotSpotter Investigate can help with this.
COPLINK X deploys the most comprehensive set of law enforcement data in the industry, allowing agencies to access critical and relevant information from not only their agency’s systems, but across their city, county, state, and country. It is an essential tool for linking all of the associated leads based on the cases associated with the NIBIN hit report. With COPLINK X, investigators can reduce manual input of information from up to five different sources to just two (RMS->NIBIN data entry). Correlation can then be achieved in COPLINK X via an existing spreadsheet or a simple lookup tool.
Furthermore, COPLINK X is a powerful tool for investigative follow-up because it provides actionable insights beyond all of the initially linked cases through powerful analytics and visualization. This includes enabling law enforcement to search data from agencies across the country using natural language speech terms and concepts. COPLINK X also provides real-time visualizations that help identify crime trends and persons/vehicles/locations, etc. of interest to solve and ultimately prevent further criminal activity.
Investigate automates the process of importing NIBIN leads and captures information about investigations connected by the same firearms via ballistics evidence matching. This streamlines the ability for investigators to manage gun cases, clear cases effectively, and identify the most violent repeat offenders for prosecution. Additionally, ShotSpotter Investigate fosters seamless collaboration with a variety of non-law-enforcement stakeholders, such as 911 dispatchers, medical technicians, and victim advocates, and provides the ability to disseminate case information with the applicable stakeholders.
With regards to feedback, ShotSpotter Investigate’s case disposition and dissemination are secured means of communicating outcomes to the ATF. Additionally, Investigate supports a supplemental conferral, which is useful for documentation and communicating directly with the ATF on a CGIC case associated with a NIBIN Lead.
While reducing gun crime is a daunting task, it is also attainable with the right tools, technologies, and strategies. By leveraging ShotSpotter Respond, NIBIN, Coplink X and ShotSpotter Investigate, law enforcement agencies will be sure to make progress toward this monumentally important and increasingly urgent goal.