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Connecting crimes through ballistics: Tulsa police explain NIBIN

Posted at 4:26 PM, Jun 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-06 19:19:56-04

TULSA, Okla. — As gun violence gets attention across the country, Tulsa police find they're depending more and more on a system that allows them to connect crimes through ballistics.

It's called the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN). The Tulsa Police Department has used the NIBIN system for more than a decade, but over the last few years, it's become even more valuable.

TPD gave us a look inside the firearms section of the Tulsa Police Lab to see how the system works, and how it helps detectives link crimes.

"Once a cartridge casing or firearm is collected at a crime scene we turn those into our property room, which coordinates with our lab which takes those and runs tests on them," says Tulsa Police Lt. Demetrius Treantafeles.

Once the shell casing arrives at the lab, the cartridge is put into NIBIN.

"It's a box that takes pictures of the cartridge case. Those pictures are sent off and run through an algorithm and the computer comes back with images that it believes are close to what you entered," says Joy Bucklin, Firearms Technical Manager for TPD's Forensic Lab.

Once the lab receives a list of potential matches, forensics experts compare the shell casings under a microscope to find any definitive matches. Bucklin says shell casings, are almost like fingerprints.

"Most guns will leave a unique pattern behind. And that is what we do, we do pattern matching," says Bucklin. The lab report is then handed over to detectives.

"From there that report goes to investigators then can connect the dots on serial shooters or to different patters across the city where violent crime is happening," says Treantafeles.

Treantafeles says NIBIN provides TPD with important information when it comes to crimes involving guns. Investigators are able to see different patterns across the city they are able to link firearms that were seized to different shootings that have occurred across the city. It's also aided investigators by giving them another piece of evidence to push forward to the U.S. Attorney's office or District Attorney's office when it comes to prosecution.

Just last month the firearms section of the TPD lab was recognized for reaching 1,000 NIBIN leads in Tulsa. That number is up to 1,300 hundred as of Monday.

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