New technology helps solve gun crimes faster than ever before - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

New technology helps solve gun crimes faster than ever before

ATF numbers show that in 2012 more than 2,400 of the 6,300 guns recovered and traced in the state of Tennessee were recovered from crime scenes in Memphis. ATF numbers show that in 2012 more than 2,400 of the 6,300 guns recovered and traced in the state of Tennessee were recovered from crime scenes in Memphis.
A system upgrade through the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is helping local law enforcement solve gun crimes in Memphis faster than ever before. A system upgrade through the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is helping local law enforcement solve gun crimes in Memphis faster than ever before.
New science comparing bullets and shell casings helped connect the dots to the 2008 murder of Memphis police Lieutenant Ed Vidulich. New science comparing bullets and shell casings helped connect the dots to the 2008 murder of Memphis police Lieutenant Ed Vidulich.
(WMC-TV) - A system upgrade through the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is helping local law enforcement solve gun crimes in Memphis faster than ever before.

It is catching criminals who may have thought they got away with murder.

The science is not as fast as a speeding bullet, but when it comes to connecting guns to what at first appeared to be unrelated crimes – it comes close.

"We match bullet casings and cartridges found at crime scenes and match them to firearms," said TBI Forensic Scientist Supervisor Shelly Betts. 

ATF numbers show that in 2012 more than 2,400 of the 6,300 guns recovered and traced in the state of Tennessee were recovered from crime scenes in Memphis.

The guns themselves are traced back to the manufacturer and retailer through the ATF's e-Trace system.

Those crime scene guns are tested at TBI headquarters in Nashville, where forensic experts collect the bullets and shells and then compare them to the bullets and shell casings collected at the crime scene.

A camera zooms in on the casings and shows large images on computer screen for comparing purposes. 

"What I have on the left hand side of the screen is the cartridge case I fired in the gun, and the cartridge case in the right is cartridge case left at the crime scene," said Betts.

Betts attempts to line up the marks on the case that are left behind by the gun when the bullet was fired; it is what she calls the mechanical fingerprint.

"The cartridge case from the crime scene was fired in the glock pistol that I just fired into our bullet tank," said Betts with full certainty that the gun was used at the crime. "[Then] we'll put the cartridge cases into IBIS, and look to see if those cartridge casings link up to any other crimes that have happened."

Integrated Ballistic Identification System (IBIS) digital imaging software takes multiple pictures of a shell casing or bullet and then uploads that data into the ATF's National Integrated Ballistic Information Network database (NIBIN) for comparison.

According to TBI, the ATF's IBIS database has linked 120 unrelated cases in Memphis since 2004.

"This also links cases that we had no idea were related. These links, we call those cold hits," said Betts. 

One high-profile cold hit, where IBIS connected the dots, is the 2008 murder of Memphis police Lieutenant Ed Vidulich.

Dexter Cox was arrested for that crime.

IBIS revealed the gun used to kill Vidulich was also used in the 2007 murders of Gwendolyn Cherry Smith and Herbert Wooten.

"I'm mad, but over time, I might forgive him. I'm just glad he's caught," said Wooten, whose husband was

Cox was convicted for all three murders and will spend the rest of his life in prison. It took weeks to establish a link between the three crime scenes.

The digital upgrade to IBIS cuts the time down to hours.

Every gun recovered in at a crime scene in Memphis is sent to the TBI for testing and analysis. The updated IBIS software may be helpful in solving some of the 30 unsolved homicides in Memphis in 2013.

Keep in mind, IBIS cannot determine who fired the gun used in a crime-that still comes from good old fashioned investigating.

Copyright 2013 WMC-TV. All rights reserved

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