Computer Helps Police Use Bullets to Link Crimes

Article excerpt

The same gun that critically wounded a man in Fairmont Heights on July 26 was used to shoot a man in Landover on Aug. 13. A new crime-fighting computer says so.

The computer, which can make ballistics comparisons in a matter of minutes that used to take months, has helped police link shootings in Northwest Washington, Forestville, Oxon Hill and Temple Hills over the last two years to three other guns.

Although the computer does not name suspects, police in Montgomery and Prince George's counties hailed it yesterday as the next best thing.

"You got a small group of thugs out there who are using their guns over and over and over," Prince George's County Police Chief John Farrell said.

The quick computation of ballistics evidence by the Integrated Ballistic Identification System (IBIS) is helping detectives trace those thugs and close cases.

Montgomery County Police Chief Carol Mehrling said criminals have become more mobile, moving from jurisdiction to jurisdiction as they commit crimes, but IBIS helps track them.

"With this particular program, it doesn't matter where they move to," Chief Mehrling said. "When cases are closed quickly, it benefits everybody."

The $280,000 system is shared by the two Maryland counties and was provided by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which helps with upkeep.

Digital pictures of bullets - whether recovered from a crime scene or fired by police investigators from a suspect gun - are logged into the computer, which notes the peculiar scratches, dents and marks left by the gun that fired it. …