Houston police, ATF to unveil new crime-fighting tool

By Aaron Barker - Senior Digital Editor

HOUSTON - Houston police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Thursday unveiled a new tool that allows the processing of gun-crime evidence within hours instead of days, according to Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.

Acevedo and ATF Special Agent in Charge Fred Milanowski showed off a new van that will be used to help collect and compare ballistic evidence against a national database called the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network.

“This is a great day for Houston, Texas,” Acevedo said.

Milanowski said that Houston represents the third city where the mobile NIBIN system has been deployed, with Baltimore and Chicago being the first two. However, this is the first time local police personnel trained by the ATF will be used to process the evidence.

About 10 Houston Police Department personnel were trained by the ATF, and will image and enter the evidence into the system, Milanowski said. That information is then compared by technicians at an ATF facility in Alabama, who flag matches and notify local investigators.

People can think of the evidence being processed as the “DNA” of a firearm, Acevedo said. He said that it used to take investigators as long as 10 days to process that evidence, but the new system allows processing in about four hours. 

“The sooner we hit the ground running … the sooner we’re going to be able to get someone in custody,” Acevedo said.

Dozens of shooters have been arrested and convicted because of the system, Milanowski said.

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