ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has brought a new mobile unit to the Albuquerque metropolitan area that may help solve more crimes. The mobile National Integrated Ballistics Information (NIBIN) unit is a system that can be used by law enforcement to look for specific markings on shell casings left following gunfire.

The casings are put into a NIBIN system, which creates images of the casing from various angles with different lighting. The images are sent to an ATF analyst who compares them to images of casings collected at other scenes. Law enforcement can use those unique markings to tie a gun to a crime or series of crimes during an investigation. The markings on shell casings act as individual “fingerprints” that can help connect each casing to the exact gun the bullet was fired from. The analyst works to determine if there’s a connection.

The Albuquerque Police Department used the system to find the criminal who shot at the homes of elected leaders earlier this year. Detectives were able to match a gun used by Jose Trujillo to casings in one of the shootings, which eventually led to the arrest of Solomon Pena. NIBIN also helped officials solve the Albuquerque murders of three Muslim men in 2022.

New Mexico currently has three NIBIN units; two are at APD and one is with the New Mexico State Police in Santa Fe. The mobile unit will be in Albuquerque for 60 days and is one of only four mobile units in the county.

APD Chief Harold Medina is encouraging agencies within Albuquerque and the surrounding areas to bring in the shell casings for analysis. Medina says, “We want to be the center of where shell casings come in the metro area. We intend to continue to work with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department; we want to reach out to the Sandoval, Valencia County sheriff’s departments. We want to make sure that all our tribal partners have a place to bring their shell casings. One thing I learned when I worked at the Pueblo of Laguna is the criminals from the metro area, too many times, end up in the surrounding communities.”