Houston Police Get Ballistics Van From Feds

ATF imaging equipment is expected to link gun crimes quicker

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo speaks in front of the NIBIN van on loan from ATF on Thursday, April 19, 2018.

Houston police will continue a partnership with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to link gun crimes. Local officials unveiled a ballistic forensics van on loan to Houston police from ATF on Thursday.

The van links up to a national database of ballistics evidence called the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, which allows police to take scans of bullet casings at crime scenes and compare them with casings found at other sites.

"We will be able to have information back to our detectives when we have hits in a matter of hours,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo. He said linking gun crimes to one another used to take the department days at a time.

ATF Firearms and Toolmark Examiner Walter Dandridge demonstrates ballistics imaging inside the NIBIN van on Thursday, April 19, 2018.

Authorities said those links are useful in creating a case against suspects that often cannot be brought in on a single gun crime due to a lack of evidence.

"When you have 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 different shootings, then you have enough information that the investigators are able to identify a suspect," said Fred Milanowski, Special Agent in Charge of Houston Field Division for ATF.

While the van has been used in Baltimore and Chicago previoulsy, this is the first time it will be operated by local police. HPD said ten officers have been trained to use it.

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