Mobile gun units come to Southern West Virginia to assist officers in tracking violent crimes

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Training is now underway for local law enforcement in using high-tech assistance that will help them target gun violence in communities where its need is essential.

United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia Will Thompson joined officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program Tuesday in two locations to announce the arrival of gun crime mobile units.

After making the announcement about the deployment of the ATF National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) mobile unit first at the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office in Beckley Tuesday, it was again deployed to the West Virginia State Police Academy in Dunbar.

The ATF is operating in partnership with Appalachia HIDTA to deploy the units to law enforcement agencies across the Southern District of West Virginia. They will provide the officers with training in operating the units and give investigative support by analyzing ballistic evidence from gun crimes.

NIBIN mobile unit

“We recover a weapon in Mercer County we might find out it was used in a crime scene in Chicago or some place like that, which will help us better understand and eventually solve and convict the person with that weapon,” said Thompson.

The only national investigative and intelligence network, the NIBIN mobile unit will enable law enforcement with the ability to capture and compare ballistic evidence by linking firearms from multiple crime scenes. It will allow officers to more quickly stop shootings when they occur and aid them in solving and preventing violent crimes where firearms have been used.

ATF Special Agent in Charge, Shawn Morrow said that each firearm leaves a distinct mark on shell casings, so if a firearm is used to commit a crime and the casings are left at the scene, the evidence is unique to that gun.

“When law enforcement later recovers a firearm, we can do test fires and those casings will draw a link back to the original crime scene, which is really valuable information for investigators to know the person who possessed that gun may be connected to a violent crime,” said Morrow.

Morrow said when the evidence is collected it’s entered into the NIBIN system through digital images. ATF’s main national training center in Huntsville, Alabama receives the images being submitted by law enforcement and analyzes them, enabling officers to gather leads when the information comes back within 24 to 48 hours.

Morrow said that while it may not always give them the direct information to the crime, it does give them those crucial leads.

“We may not always be able to prove a case in court in terms of who did a shooting, but if we know someone is responsible we can direct our resources toward that person or that organization,” said Morrow.

Thompson said there are many violent crimes currently taking place throughout the district, particularly in Raleigh and Mercer Counties.

Raleigh County Sheriff, J.C. Canaday said the technology enhances collaboration between law enforcement agencies, and he hopes that more will take advantage of it to help alleviate these violent crimes in the area.

“The more folks that take advantage of this the more information we have to put into the NIBIN system the more beneficial it is for everybody that’s using it, you know, if we have good information coming in than we’re going to get good information coming out,” he said.

“The main goal is to make our community safer and also to drive down the drug and violent crime,” Canaday added.

A tour and demonstrations of the NIBIN unit followed each news conference Tuesday.