HOUSTON – The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive’s Houston Office announced the creation of a Gun Crime Strike Force in January 2019. Since its inception, the task force has arrested 293 people.
The task force is a partnership between ATF and Houston police targeting violent gun crimes and career criminals. An effort that now expanding to help several law enforcement agencies in the Greater Houston area.
“We’re the first major metropolitan area in the country that has comprehensive collection and entry at the state, federal and local level,” said Fred Milanowski, the special agent-in-charge of ATF’s Houston Office.
The collection of shell casing used in crimes is the backbone of the effort by the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network or NIBIN. Guns leave distinct marks, similar to fingerprints, on ejected shell casings. These casings are entered into a nationwide database to determine if there is a link to other gun crimes.
“The criminals we catching here are not just victimizing Houstonians, people in Harris County. They’re going all over the state and in some cases across state lines,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.
Houston Police Department, Harris, Montgomery and Fort Bend counties are all now entering shell casings and crime guns into this system. For smaller agencies, the ATF is taking this technology mobile.
Last month, an ATF Crime Gun Intelligence Mobile Command unit started traveling to several smaller police agencies to help process evidence in gun crimes.
“We’ve conducted 146 test fires, entered 211 evidence cartridge casings and that developed 12 leads,” said Mickey French, the assistant special agent-in-charge.
This mobile unit has 16 work stations along with NIBIN computers and can be deployed to scenes involving multiple shootings. The task force focuses on four main areas; armed commercial robberies, carjackings, multiple shootings linked to a single gun and weapons trafficking.
“Harris County is the number one county in the nation for the origination of guns that have been recovered in Mexico and traced back to the United States,” said Milanowski.
Acevedo also announced he is creating another 10-man violent crime tactical unit that will work with this strike force to keep expanding this effort.