Forensic Technology Blog

A Best Bet in the Race to Stop Armed Criminals

Posted by Pete Gagliardi Aug 14, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Pete_GradI’ve been in the business of dealing with gun crimes for 46 years. I began as a police aide processing crime scenes circa 1969. 

The first time I was handed  a task that I thought was far too involved for one person to complete on time, I began to very politely explain to my boss what I considered to be good reasons why it would be almost impossible to accomplish alone.

 I was only able to get out  something to the effect of: “but, boss . . .  “; when he cut me off raising his left hand as if stopping traffic. Then continuing in what looked like a single, almost choreographed motion, he threw his right hand back over his right shoulder, pointing out the door behind him with his thumb and told me to - “Tell it to Sweeney”.

Of course everyone on the PD knew Sweeney. He was the hot dog guy who had a food truck on Long Wharf in New Haven long before food trucks became gourmet chic. Sweeney would have been happy to give me the special, a red hot, a bag of chips and a drink - but that was about it.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: Use what you've got to get what you want so you can “chalk-up” a win. In other words get moving, and get the job done.

So I did.

Playing out my debatable attempt at a metaphor here, the question I would like to explore today is: What does it really take to chalk up a win when it comes to stopping armed criminals?

Before I race to answer that question, allow me to tell you a little bit about where I’m coming from. 

My perspective on this is a harshly pragmatic one. In my view, we have been unable to end man’s murderous ways toward man since Cain murdered Able while all this time law enforcement has had to respond and deal with the aftermaths.

Therefore, I make no apologies for not having much faith in either one of the two most common and opposing claims: a) fewer guns/more laws will stop armed criminals and b) more guns/fewer laws will stop armed criminals.  

I also don’t hold much faith in unsustainable initiatives hastily designed with a few bucks behind them to help city police stop armed criminals. While I readily acknowledge that these types of initiatives are advanced with the best of intentions, my overriding concern is what happens after they all leave and the money dries up? What changes will have been made that will allow the city receiving the temporary assistance to “take it from there” and sustain the quality of the inflated response? 

I subscribe to the theory that an improvement that cannot be sustained is not an improvement at all. It is a regression that impacts morale and motivation and shakes confidence and trust.  

I do however; hold great faith in a number of basic premises when it comes to dealing with armed criminals.

  • I believe that we should do all we can to identify and stop armed criminals before they have the opportunity to hurt someone. 
  • Should criminals succeed in harming others, I believe that we should do everything in our power to identify them and stop them from doing more - and that we hold them accountable for their actions, seeking justice on behalf of the victims.

New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman posed a question during his announcement of a new gun violence suppression strategy in April of 2014. He asked: “How do you stop gun violence when it has reached the point that an innocent 13-year-old honors student, Zainee Hailey, is gunned down while simply taking out the trash on Christmas Day, along with two young men barely older than her?”

He answered his own question saying “. . . you do everything in your power – you marshal your forces and deploy them using a proven plan.”

Here you have it - the secret sauce - a pinch of leadership to establish the objective and point the team in the right direction and a whole lot of stock in the field operations team whose job it is to figure out the details on how to get there.

We’re getting much warmer here - so back to my main question: What does it really take to chalk up a win when it comes to stopping armed criminals?

I believe that it takes three things in balanced combination: People, Processes and Technology.

In terms of people, they are needed to collect, preserve and transfer evidence, to investigate criminal cases and gather information, to conduct forensic testing, to trace guns, analyze data and disseminate intelligence. It also takes people to prosecute cases in court and administer justice. Awareness, Training and Collaboration become critical elements for success.

In terms of processes, policy leads the way. It takes top down policy communicated in writing as standard operating directives to guide and hold people accountable for doing what they are paid to do.In order for processes to be sustainable, they must be efficient and effective. However, to be of maximum crime solving value – they must also be timely. Sustainability, Adherence and Accountability become critical elements for success.

In terms of technology, available systems like IBISTRAX-HD3D can process 2D and 3D high definition ballistics data and search it over wide area networks like the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) to link crimes, guns and suspects across city, state and national boundaries, there is eTrace for crime gun tracing and analysis, CODIS for DNA, AFIS for fingerprints, cloud-based crime gun intelligence tracking systems like GunOPS and acoustic detection systems like Shotspotter to hear gunshots and "call the cops”.  Accessibility, Affordability and Continuous Improvement become crucial elements for success.  

At the horse track, the daily racing form gives prospective bettors information about the past performances of the horses running in the day’s races in order to make better informed predictions about a horse's next performance.

If you want to know how an organization will fare in the race to stop armed criminals, I would suggest that you use the form I have extracted from a Resolution adopted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) on Regional Crime Gun Processing Protocols. Read list below and one by one ask yourself how your law enforcement agency performs in terms of having written departmental policies and procedures in place to address these six key factors:

  • ˜The thorough investigation of each gun crime & the safe and proper collection
  •  of all crime guns & related evidence.
  • The performance of appropriate NCIC transactions (e.g. stolen, recovered) on recovered guns.
  • The timely and comprehensive tracing of all crime guns through ATF & eTrace.
  • The timely processing of crime gun test fires and ballistics evidence through NIBIN.
  • The timely lab submission and analysis of other forensic data from crime guns and related evidence (e.g. DNA, latent fingerprints, trace evidence).
  • The timely generation, dissemination and investigative follow-up of the intelligence derived from the protocols.

The more dots checked – the better the odds of winning. The fewer dots checked – well you see where this is going...

The key to winning the race to stop armed criminals is the ability to sustain the six tenets above for the long haul. And the ONLY way to achieve that is by creating the right balance of people, processes and technology.

That said, my best bet would be the Trifecta Box to cover every possible combination of the three “horses” I would put my money on to win, place and show: people, processes and technology.


What’s that you say? But you need what? But you don’t have what?

Tell it to Sweeney! 

Truth is, “ole Sweeney” is busy trying to hold onto his spot against an onslaught of new food trucks hawking everything from cupcakes to cubanos and tacos to Thai - I guess we should leave him be.

Of course, you can always tell it to me and I would be happy to share some ways in which others like you have been able to overcome the obstacles, get the job done and chalk up some wins in the race to stop armed criminals.

So if you have a mind to - give me a shout at  pete.gagliardi[at] and tell it to Pete.

Pete Gagliardi


Topics: Protocols, NIBIN, Forensics, gun crime, GunOps, Stop Crime, Solve Crime

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