The Greensboro News & Record
The robber confronted the Burger King manager in the back of the
restaurant. He took the manager's wallet, shot him in the forearm and
fled - but not before leaving the gun behind.
With only the dropped gun to go on, Greensboro police might still be
looking for the shooter.
But the robbery happened in Durham, where a computer analysis of
bullet casings fired from the gun showed it was used in a shooting a
year earlier. Police had arrested that shooter, giving investigators
a prime suspect.
The same ballistics technology used by Durham and the rest of the
state's metropolitan police departments to link crimes and make
arrests is available to Greensboro police. But over the past three
years, Greensboro has largely ignored the technology, according to
police officials and state statistics.
Of the state's five largest police departments, Greensboro has the
fewest guns listed on the National Integrated Ballistics Information
Network, a database that allows police to compare markings on bullet
fragments and casings to determine whether the same weapon was used
in different crimes.
Since 2000, Durham investigators entered ballistic results from 866
guns or bullets into the database. Over the same time, the State
Bureau of Investigation has entered 52 guns or bullets recovered by
Greensboro police into the NIBIN.
"It's not been a priority," said Capt. Rick Ball, who heads the team
charged with reducing gun violence in Greensboro. "Nothing in our
evidentiary procedures indicates that it's a priority."
The technology had been around for more than a decade, but no one in
the department talked about it outside the crime lab before last
year, Ball said.
"It's something that should have gone department-wide, and they just
ignored it," he said.
Robert White, who headed the department at the time, is now the chief
in Louisville, Ky. He did not return phone calls for comment by The
News & Record of Greensboro. Chief David Wray said he plans to change
the department's track record.
Greensboro officers who confiscate a gun from a suspect, find bullets
at a crime scene or pick up a found gun decide whether to send that
evidence to the SBI for testing.
So far, they only send information to help solve homicides, serious
assaults and crimes they already suspect are linked, Ball said.
The result is that Greensboro investigators can recall only one time
in the past six years that shootings in Greensboro were linked.
Charlotte investigators test slightly more than half of all guns the
department takes in and every unique bullet casing or bullet
recovered from crime scenes. More than 1,000 entries since 2000 have
produced 35 hits, and the number of times those hits led to an arrest
is even smaller.
"I'd be hard-pressed to say three," said Bill McBrayer, who oversees
gun testing for Charlotte-Mecklenberg police. "If you think it's
going to solve the world's problems, it's not necessarily going to do