Crime Gun Intelligence Centers: A promising way to reduce gang violence

These centers incorporate all aspects of intelligence-led policing by emphasizing information sharing and collaboration among varying criminal justice stakeholders


Editor's note: In resource-strapped times, intelligence-led policing is a key to identifying and investigating gang activity. This special coverage series reviews strategies departments can deploy to take a data-driven approach to reducing gang-related crime.

Reducing gang crime by identifying, investigating and incarcerating gang members – especially those who are repeat violent offenders – has been a top priority for law enforcement for the past couple of decades. According to the National Institute of Justice, gang members engage in a higher level of serious and violent crime than non-gang members. When communities assess their gun violence problem, they often uncover a gang violence problem – therefore, identifying and apprehending these individuals in a timely manner remains critical. [1] 

A woman works from a U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives mobile ballistics trailer on Tuesday, May 2, 2017, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Juliet Linderman)
A woman works from a U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives mobile ballistics trailer on Tuesday, May 2, 2017, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Juliet Linderman)

Defining Intelligence-Led Policing

Intelligence-led policing (ILP), a policing model introduced in the 1990s, is being adopted by law enforcement agencies across the country in order to take a data-driven approach to reducing gang-related crime. 

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, ILP is “a collaborative law enforcement approach combining problem-solving policing, information sharing and police accountability, with enhanced intelligence operations.” [2] It is designed to guide policing activities toward high-frequency offenders, locations, or crimes to inform resource allocation decisions. [3] The main component of ILP is collaboration among various agencies and levels of law enforcement.  

National Crime Gun Intelligence Center Local Integration Initiative 

One example of an intelligence-led policing initiative is the National Crime Gun Intelligence Center (CGIC) Initiative.

The National CGIC Initiative supports local multidisciplinary teams in their efforts to integrate into the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) existing CGICs to prevent violent crime by identifying perpetrators, linking criminal activities and identifying sources of crime guns for immediate disruption, investigation and prosecution. [4] ATF CGICs incorporate all aspects of the intelligence-led policing model in that they emphasize information sharing and collaboration among varying criminal justice stakeholders and conduct systematic data analysis using ATF and local law enforcement data sources to target the most prolific shooters in a given community with the ultimate goal of reducing gun violence.

Multiple jurisdictions across the country, with assistance from the ATF, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the National Police Foundation, have implemented business practices to enhance their utilization of CGICs.

The CGIC concept was developed by ATF and is defined as an “interagency collaboration focused on the immediate collection, management and analysis of crime gun evidence, such as shell casings, in real time, in an effort to identify shooters, disrupt criminal activity, and prevent future violence.” [4] CGICs leverage two key ATF technologies to ballistically connect shootings and determine the sources of crime guns- the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) and eTrace.

NIBIN & eTrace

NIBIN allows for the systematic collection and processing of ballistics evidence collected at crime scenes in which shell casings are left behind. When fired, each shell casing has microscopic marks etched on it from the gun. Those marks are unique to the gun that fired it. Investigators can input images of casings into NIBIN, and use software to scan through the database to find probable matches to casings recovered at other crime scenes. The result is automated ballistics evaluations, providing investigators actionable leads in a timely manner.[5]

Firearms tracing is the systematic tracking of the movement of a firearms recovered by law enforcement officials from its first sale by the manufacturer or importer through the distribution chain (wholesaler/retailer) to the first retail purchaser. Comprehensive firearms tracing is the routine tracing of every crime gun recovered within a geographic area or specific law enforcement jurisdiction. eTrace is a paperless firearm trace submission system that is readily accessible through the internet that provides the necessary utilities for submitting, retrieving, storing and querying all firearms trace related information relative to the requestor’s agency.

Key Partnerships, Primary Outcomes of Crime Gun Intelligence Centers

Key CGIC partners include the ATF, local police departments and their gang units, local crime laboratories, probation and parole officers, state and federal prosecutors, crime analysts, victim advocates and academic organizations. CGICs utilize systematic data analysis of ATF’s NIBIN and eTrace information coupled with intelligence analysis from local law enforcement to guide their pursuit of violent offenders.

The primary outcome of these centers is identifying armed violent offenders for investigation and prosecution. Other outcomes include: the identification of crime gun sources, efficient resource allocation, providing decision-makers with the most accurate crime data available, increasing case closure rates, public safety and gun crime prevention.[4]

Crime Gun Intelligence Centers incorporate components of an intelligence-led policing strategy, namely collaboration between various criminal justice stakeholders. (Photo/Crime Gun Intel Centers)
Crime Gun Intelligence Centers incorporate components of an intelligence-led policing strategy, namely collaboration between various criminal justice stakeholders. (Photo/Crime Gun Intel Centers)

CGIC Successes in Gang-Related Cases

Jurisdictions that have implemented CGICs have seen a number of success stories as they relate to apprehending violent street gang members.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a participating CGIC agency, was able to use ballistic evidence collected at a crime scene to identify, arrest, and prosecute three gang members linked to a string of shootings.[4]

Investigators in New Haven, Connecticut, deployed an intelligence-led policing strategy through the use of NIBIN technology to help identify, arrest and prosecute a violent gang member responsible for several murders, armed robberies, and drug trafficking, amongst other charges. According to investigators, collaboration between the local police department, state police, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), state crime laboratory, and the State Attorney’s Office was key in the prosecution of the gang member. In addition, an instrumental component of the investigation was the work of the Connecticut State Crime Laboratory in utilizing NIBIN to analyze ballistics evidence. 

In each of these cases, the strong collaboration between partners was key to successful prosecution. From the early stages of comprehensive collection through prosecution, CGICs emphasize the need for increased communication between local, state, and federal partners.

Conclusion

Crime Gun Intelligence Centers are one example of an approach utilizing an intelligence-led policing strategy to reduce gun violence, as well as gang crime in communities. CGICs, with the use of ATF’s NIBIN and eTrace technologies, incorporate all components of an intelligence-led policing strategy that can not only reduce crime, but proactively prevent it from happening. CGICs can help investigators link shootings and ultimately identify, arrest and prosecute violent gang members who are engaged in repeat gun violence.

For more information on how Crime Gun Intelligence Centers can be an effective tool to target gangs and other criminal networks, view this one-pager developed by the National Police Foundation (available below). You can also visit the National Crime Gun Intelligence Center website. For inquiries, contact National Police Foundation Executive Vice President James Burch at jburch@policefoundation.org.  

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References

1. NIJ. Gangs and Gang Crime.

2. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. Intelligence-Led Policing: The New Intelligence Architecture, September 2005.

3. LeCates R. Intelligence-led Policing: Changing the Face of Crime Prevention. Police Chief Online, October 17, 2018.

4. National Resource and Technical Assistance Center for Improving Law Enforcement Investigations. The National Crime Gun Intelligence Initiative.

5. ATF. National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN).

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