Police say it happens all the time: a criminal fires a gun in one municipality, then drives to another location and commits another crime. Or one or more gang members might do several crimes in different jurisdictions—maybe one in Jonesboro, then another in College Park, then another in Stonecrest.
Now, according to U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, College Park Police Chief Connie Rogers, and College Park Mayor Bianca Motley-Broom, police will be able to track gun crimes across municipalities with greater speed. Thanks to $373,000 in federal funds, College Park Police will host a database—shared with other municipal police departments—that compares shell casings from crime scenes.
“This is a forensics tool that allows the analysis of spent shell casings and then enters that data into a national ballistics database that feeds information from the localities and from federal law enforcement agencies to better identify the firearm that’s been used where shell casings are recovered at a crime scene,” Ossoff told The Clayton Crescent.
Right now, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation processes shell casings for ballistics information. Every shell casing that is fired from a specific firearm bears a unique pattern, like a fingerprint, that matches the weapon from which it was fired. If the grooves in a shell casing in evidence matches those from a shell fired from a gun recovered at that crime scene or elsewhere, that ties the shell casing to the gun and to whomever had the weapon in their possession at the time of the crime.
Right now, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation processes shell casings for ballistic information. That can take two or three months. By being able to process those casings in-house, College Park can buy precious time in an investigation—and the GBI won’t have to process as many shell casings.
Other municipal police agencies also will benefit. Say Forest Park or Morrow or Riverdale Police are working a crime scene and they recover shell casings. They enter the information into the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network System, a nationwide database of ballistics information. A match pops up in New York City.
$273,000 is for the ballistics analysis system, Ossoff said, adding, “I’m also providing some other technological upgrades for the department here to improve officer safety, officer situational awareness, and communications.”
This might mean that whoever did the crime here also did the crime in New York. It also might mean that a straw purchaser bought a gun here and sold it there. Or the gun might have been stolen in New York and made its way down to Clayton County through one or more people in the same gang network. Whatever the circumstances and the timing, this information gives investigators a much better chance of tracking down criminals more quickly. And that, Ossoff told reporters in a press conference Tuesday, saves lives.
Ossoff said he wants to “expand capacities statewide to investigate and fight violent crime. There are other jurisdictions and other agencies in the state that have this or similar technology, but the capacity is insufficient. And as any detective will tell you, time counts in the investigation of violent crime. And so delays in the identification of spent shell casings and the firearms used in violent crime, those delays, those can cost lives. That means violent criminals and illegal weapons remain on the streets that otherwise would have been apprehended.”
“I am delivering crime-fighting technology upgrades to keep families safe across metro Atlanta,” Ossoff said. “And working with the chief, the mayor, and the whole team here, I am delivering this new ballistics analysis technology to the department, which will allow the analysis, identification of spent shell casings to more swiftly close homicide cases and to bring violent criminals to justice.”
Motley Broom told reporters, “We’re grateful that Senator Ossoff showed up here in College Park today, but we’re even more grateful for the face that he shows up for our city, and every other city, in the great state of Georgia in the U.S. Senate. The funding that we have received will go toward police technology to make sure that we are able to identify ballistics off of weapons that have been shot, and link with other agencies. In fact, we are only the ninth agency in the state that has this technology. And it’s thanks to the senator’s efforts and his tireless work on behalf of Georgians across this state.”
Noting that College Park “is home to the second-largest convention center in the state of Georgia” and the state’s fourth-largest tourism destination, Motley Broom added, “This technology means that everyone, everyone across our region is safer—not just the residents of College Park. We plan to put this to use to make sure that everyone benefits.”
Ossoff said, “This is about protecting families across metro Atlanta. The violent crime crisis requires a continued and robust response. And departments like the College Park [Police] department need the ability to analyze crime scene evidence, and to analyze spent shell casings so they can identify the murder weapon, so that they can apprehend a suspect and bring killers or those who use firearms to attack our fellow citizens to justice. I want to emphasize this: This technology will serve the entire metro region. Jurisdictions across the region will be able to partner with the department here in order to access this technology and to fight crime.”
Rogers said the system will buy law enforcement precious time.
“The process now is, shell casings go to the GBI for identification,” she told reporters. “Having the system in house is going to allow for a quick response time for getting those results back and getting those violent criminals off the street.”
The upgraded system “is just going to aid in the communication between the municipalities,” she explained. “Having this piece of equipment in house is just going to allow for a better collaborations between the municipalities. Us coming together, talking about our crime, talking about their crime, comparing data and information….This equipment and network system is just going to help and aid as another investigative tool to assist us.”
Rogers added the system should be up and running “within the next three or four months….This system and network will be open to all municipalities.”
“I have to commend the city leadership for the diligence with which the city and the department submitted this request to my office,” Ossoff said. “As you can imagine, my office receives thousands of requests for funding from across the state every year, and the imperative of protecting families in metro Atlanta, the scourge of gun violence and violent crime that imperils families and children across metro Atlanta made it my priority to deliver these upgrades for the city, so that the city can partner with jurisdictions across the region and fight violent crime.”
“Look, I’ve got a baby daughter at home,” Ossoff said. “There is no worse nightmare for any parent in the state of Georgia than that a violent criminal, who could have been apprehended, or an illegal firearm that could have been taken off the streets, instead remained at large, resulting in the death or grievous injury of a child. And that is happening to families in metro Atlanta. That’s why I prioritized this.”