It’s like the National DNA Database, but for shell casings. A ballistics program that Albuquerque’s only had for a few years, is linking criminals to other crimes and bringing justice to victims and their families.
At the Albuquerque Police Department’s crime lab, shell casings first get checked in as evidence, then they’re placed in a machine called NIBIN, which stands for the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network.
“Just like every person has a fingerprint, each gun leaves an individual fingerprint on the casing,” said Commander Christopher George.
George said NIBIN is a unique technology that takes pictures and creates 3-D images of the casings. It compares the ejection marks on casings found at different crimes scenes to see if they were fired from the same gun.
Last week, police said the casings collected after a road rage shooting were linked to a slew of others they were investigating.
Prosecutors also said the shell casings collected at two separate shootings that were committed by a 19-year-old who is now in custody, matched the gun they say was used in the murders of two teens.
The process works two ways: The technicians can also use guns collected to make entries into the database.
“If we get a firearm without the shell casing, we put the firearm into our firearms lab, we’ll conduct a test fire, retrieve that shell casing and repeat the same process,” said George.
On average he said the lab gets 27 guns into evidence per week, and exponentially more casings.
“Councilor Pat Davis was the giant push behind the current NIBIN machine. He got us funding to get it back into the city of Albuquerque,” he said.
In 2018, APD began tracking NIBIN and stats had 172 matches for the year.
“It’s been an invaluable tool to combat gun violence,” said George.
The NIBIN machine cost $350,000, and APD is looking to get another one because of the number of guns and casings they collect each year.
The lab is also looking to get a stronger internet line to cut the amount of testing time per casing from 15 minutes down to one.