The Myrtle Beach Police Department plans to use a $700,000 grant from the Department of Justice for a tool aimed at helping police connect shootings and identify perpetrators.
The money is being used to set up a regional National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) hub at the MBPD for firearm investigations.
“All of us in the 15th Circuit are very proud to be able to do that for our communities,” Myrtle Beach police chief Amy Prock said flanked by other local law enforcement leaders during a press conference Tuesday. “This program will provide rapid analysis of gun-related evidence vital for any violent crime reduction strategy.”
The technology takes 3D images of ballistic evidence and finds possible matches to evidence from other crime scenes.
Basically, it lets investigators compare their ballistics evidence against that from other agencies and establish connections. The goal is to prevent and solve violent gun crimes.
“About 5% of criminals are currently committing about 80% of violent crimes,” said Brian Mein, assistant special agent in charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Charlotte Field Division, “so what this technology will do is help us to focus on that 5%”
When a gun is fired, unique marks are left on the cartridge case. Similar to how a person’s fingerprints are unique, no two guns leave the same marks.
Cops can bring those cases to the hub, where microscopic images are taken and uploaded before being correlated against a national database. Comparisons are done within the system, and any leads generated can be sent to the submitting agency.
Not only will Myrtle Beach police get to use the technology but other Grand Strand law enforcement departments, too.
Local agencies got the chance to use the technology in January when a mobile NIBIN van was parked in Myrtle Beach for several days.
Officials have stressed that the technology, which is over 99% accurate, is used for leads.
Ultimately, when a case heads to court, authorities still want to have forensic analysts pore over the relevant information to ensure accuracy.
Officials said about 20% of all acquisitions generate a lead for officers.
There are currently more than 220 NIBIN sites in the United States and three in South Carolina.
“It’s extremely important that we spread this technology around the state,” Mein said.