NIBIN system helps Cincinnati police link guns to specific crimes

Posted at 4:43 PM, Jan 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-17 19:26:30-05

CINCINNATI -- A simple-looking computer system links guns to specific individuals and is helping reduce the number of shootings in Cincinnati. 

The computer is called the Cincinnati police NIBIN system. That's short for National Integrated Ballistic Information Network. In the past 18 months, it's been the number one tool in helping solve shooting cases in Cincinnati. 

The Queen City Square shootings prompted the department to buy the system in 2016. Detective Robin Upchurch took shell casings to a NIBIN machine in Dayton and it tied them to a gun Rayshawn Herald used in a Mount Auburn gun battle.

Assistant Chief Paul Neudigate said NIBIN's most recent success story was the November shooting of a man on the Taylor-Southgate Bridge. Neudigate said he was found in critical condition with no witnesses or suspects. 

Detective Upchurch found a shell casing in mud and took it to NIBIN. School resource officers then found a gun in a high school locker.

"That gun recovered at the high school was used in that shooting," Neudigate said. 

Tests include firing a gun and collecting the bullets and shell casings. They're examined by officers like Christ Vogelpohl and crime data is entered in a federal ATF database.

"It's just like a fingerprint that the firearm leaves on the casing," Vogelpohl said. 

The pictures are sent off to an ATF correlation center in Huntsville, Alabama. They let police know if the casings match with anyone else.

Sgt. Don Scalf said the goal is getting leads in 48 to 72 hours. 

"If it's an urgent case, we can always call down to the correlation center and we can have an answer within a couple of hours," he said. 

So far, there have been 700 confirmed correlations.

"You can imagine how excited the homicide detectives are to get that huge critical break and know that the gun used in one of their offenses was in someone's possession," Neudigate said. 

NIBIN is one of the tools that has helped reduce shootings from 479 two years ago to 410 last year. Another is ShotSpotter, which helps officers respond more quickly to shootings.

"There is a hardcore group of 40 to 50 trigger pullers that repeatedly shoot individuals," Neudigate said. "They pull the trigger multiple times and unfortunately we do have those uncooperative victims and they do not help us solve those shooting offenses."

That takes more investigation work which, in the future, may be aided by another tool: the city's camera network. ShotSpotter gets police to a scene quickly, NIBIN links shootings together and more cameras could quickly identify suspects, according to Neudigate.