DC police turn to ballistic technology to quell gun violence

DC police chief Robert Contee is joined by Special Agent in Charge Charlie Patterson and Assistant U.S. Attorney for D.C. John Hill to announce a new partnership with ATF to use ballistic technology for gun violence crimes. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)

A 10-member intelligence team of D.C. police detectives and agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been formed in the newest effort to rein in the deadly gun violence on the streets of the District.

The team comprises four D.C. police detectives and a sergeant paired with four ATF special agents and their supervisor. The team will focus on guns and casings linked to multiple shootings in an effort to identify the shooters so that they can be arrested and prosecuted.

The new investigative unit will use forensic analysis of guns and shell casings recovered from crime scenes to help identify shooters, comparing ballistic evidence with the ATF’s massive database — the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network.

Police and federal agents say it’s a matter of connecting the dots.

“The intelligence gleaned from this technology shows us a small group of individuals are responsible for most of the shootings here in the District,” Charlie Patterson of the ATF’s Washington Field Division said.

In one case, Patterson said, the database identified a firearm that belonged to an individual that was linked to six separate D.C. shootings.

“We will utilize the cutting-edge technology to identify and arrest those who are pulling the trigger in our community,” Patterson said.

The forensic analysis in the ATF’s database indicates that 25% of all firearms recovered from crime scenes are linked to prior shootings, and 60% of all recovered shell casings contain ballistic evidence indicating they were fired from guns in prior shootings.

There’s hope the new team, which includes an assistant U.S. Attorney, can help quell the city’s shootings.

“This unit will have a positive impact on driving down violence, helping us remove the right guns from the wrong hands,” said D.C. police Chief Robert Contee.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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