Bill Siuru, PhD, PE
When a gun is fired, it leaves a distinct impression on the ejected shell casing, a “fingerprint of sorts,” which is unique to that weapon.
The marks found on the cartridge case, which are created by the firing pin, breech face and ejector, can be analyzed to trace the spent case back to the exact gun from which it was fired. Upon verification by a professional forensic examiner, this information can be used as evidence to help gain a conviction and solve crimes. Unfortunately, this ballistic analysis has historically been both expensive and time-consuming. Thus, with a rise in violent crimes and homicides when guns are involved, there is often a backlog of cases to be analyzed. According to NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology), law enforcement agencies annually recover 200,000 cartridge cases found at crime scenes throughout the nation.
A New Response
Vigilant Solutions, suppliers of the successful PlateSearch™ license plate recognition and FaceSearch™ facial recognition technologies, recently introduced BallisticSearch™, an affordable ballistics analysis solution which utilizes the company’s image analysis and technology expertise.
BallisticSearch is part of the LEARN 6.0 investigative platform which includes PlateSearch and FaceSearch. Like the latter two investigative tools, BallisticSearch is cloud-based, allowing the results of a BallisticSearch analysis to be added to a database which can be shared with other agencies throughout the nation, provided they have the necessary means and software. Vigilant Solutions states that its simple, opt-in data sharing between agencies is much like sharing friends’ posts on Facebook.
BallisticSearch can accurately compare cartridge cases in minutes – less than ten seconds per cartridge case – compared to other systems which can take hours to process the same evidence. This can eliminate comparison backlogs, correlate and connect more cases, and identify increased numbers of suspects.
The BallisticSearch system includes portable image capture hardware, cartridge case capture software and ballistics comparison technology. The portable capture device was designed to be small and lightweight for use in the field and, in some instances, right at the crime scene or in the forensic laboratory at a department’s headquarters. The capture software allows law enforcement agencies of all sizes to carefully identify and compare cartridge cases to others or to cartridge case samples from firearms seized as evidence and test-fired.
The system also allows law enforcement personnel to run an on-site crime scene analysis report which may provide the number of handguns used during a crime. This information is extremely valuable during the crucial period following the crime when investigators need every possible investigative lead. The resulting images from BallisticSearch are leads, however, not evidence. Only after a Forensic Firearm and Tool Mark Examiner (FFTME) examines this physical evidence under a microscope will matched ballistic evidence be admissible in a court of law.
The BallisticSearch Image Capture Station is a USB powered, compact and easy to use scanning device. It can be used indoors or outdoors and is conveyed in a durable storage carrying case. BallisticSearch includes a full suite of adjustment and enhancement tools to assist in comparing probe images against the BallisticSearch nationwide image database. Filters allow BallisticSearch users to adjust the colors of the probe and gallery images to enhance the clarity of the various marks found on the spent cartridge case.
BallisticSearch is designed to be the most efficient system available for quickly analyzing ballistic evidence in both 2-D and 3-D formats and provides the ability to share data across jurisdictions. BallisticSearch is currently designed for use with a PC running on the Windows® operating system. A mobile app is currently not available at this time; however, technology is now progressing faster than ever!
For more information, contact:
1152 Stealth Street
Livermore, CA 94551
Web site: www.VigilantSolutions.com
Bill Siuru is a retired USAF colonel. He has a PhD in mechanical engineering from Arizona State University. He has been writing about automotive, aviation and technology subjects for many years.