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Data key in ATF, Columbus police partnership to connect guns to violent crimes

Connecting the shooter and the gun to a crime also takes more than data and ballistics. But it can help.

A year of record-pacing violence has created more work volume for both local and federal law enforcement agencies, as a new partnership announced earlier this month aims to gather more intelligence and data surrounding the guns used in crimes in the Columbus area.

A 10 Investigates’ review of guns recovered by Columbus police since 2018 shows that for every 10 guns recovered, as many as seven of them were gathered by police through the use of search warrants or felony investigations.

Less than two out of every 10 were turned in or found.

In other words, police are having to go find the firearms, not the other way around.

“That’s correct,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Roland Herndon.

In an interview with 10 Investigates Monday, Herndon outlined the challenges facing law enforcement during a violent year and the prospects and partnerships that he says may aid in trying to curb some of the gun violence.

Because firearms can be purchased legally through a licensed firearms dealer, sold through peer-to-peer sales, gifted, stolen or found, it’s often difficult for law enforcement to track every turn of a firearm’s life cycle.

Connecting the shooter and the gun to a crime also takes more than data and ballistics.

But it can help.

“We are identifying the trigger pullers. That’s the job of the CGIC – we are identifying the trigger pullers in the area,” Herndon said, referring to the Crime Gun Intelligence Center. Herndon says the creation of these centers in Ohio cities like Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus are designed to help bridge technology and data with the aim of connecting the firearm to the suspect involved in the crime,

One tool that’s available from ATF to other law enforcement agencies is NIBIN or the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network. The computer-based repository allows investigators to match ballistics information to other cases across the country – which could help determine if the same gun is used in more than one crime.

“We are trying to stop the flow of the firearms to those individuals that shouldn’t have them as fast as possible,” he said.

Below is a breakdown of guns in the Columbus Division of Police property room:

2021 guns recovered: 1,325

Of the 1,325 guns recovered, 60 percent (or 820 guns) were gathered through either search warrants or felony investigations. Less than 25 percent were found or turned in.

2020 guns recovered: 2,840

Of the 2,840 guns recovered in 2020, 65 percent (or 1,857 guns) were gathered through search warrants or felony investigations. Less than 25 percent were found or turned in.

2019 guns recovered: 2,362

Of the 2,362 guns recovered in 2019, 70 percent (or 1,642 guns) were recovered through search warrants or felony investigations. Less than 20 percent of the guns were found or turned in.

2018 guns recovered: 2628

Of the 2,628 guns recovered in 2018, 72 percent (or 1,894 guns) were recovered through search warrants or felony investigations, Less than 20 percent were found or turned in.