Authorities in Denver are leading a national trend to put ballistics evidence into the hands of investigators much more quickly, before leads dry up and suspects disappear, the Associated Press reports. “Police are beginning to understand that if you don't quickly respond and address gun violence it can spread over space, and it can escalate much like a measles outbreak,” said Daniel Webster of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. Matched shell casings have helped lead to at least 35 arrests in more than 50 shootings in the two years since Denver began operating its Crime Gun Intelligence Center.
At least 13 other suspects were charged with federal gun crimes, and five more had their parole revoked, according to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The goal is to stop “active shooters,” people who “have already proven they have no qualms about pulling the trigger multiple times,” said Jeff Russell, ATF supervisor in Denver. “The urgency is there to stop that person before they commit the next shooting.” In Denver, Chicago, Milwaukee, New Orleans and other cities, shell casings are now loaded into the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network within days of a crime. A machine takes images of unique, microscopic markings at the base of each casing. Computer software produces potential matches, and detectives and ATF agents study the linked cases for other similarities, such as suspect or vehicle descriptions.