WEST ASHLEY, S.C. (WCBD) – The Charleston Police Department gave News 2 an inside look at how they process recovered firearms and other ballistic evidence.
So far this year, police said there have been 18 shootings involving a victim, in the City of Charleston.
After a gun or shell casings are removed from a crime scene, they’re brought to the CPD Forensic Services Division facility in West Ashley.
Luke Spratt is a CPD Crime Scene Investigator. He said they use the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) to examine casings and guns and link them to different crime scenes.
Once investigators obtain shell casings, they snap microscopic photos of them that reveal tiny details like ejector marks. Those photos are then uploaded to a database and compared to images from all over the Southeast region.
“The computer algorithm then scores candidates that could be possible links to what we entered,” said Spratt.
The investigators then go through the list of candidates and see if any of them are a lead. The results from this process are given within an hour or so. Between 2020 and 2021, Spratt said the technology helped CPD produce 300 leads.
“It’s linking a lot of cases that otherwise might never be linked or not linked for months or years,” he said.
CPD has been performing this task at their Forensic Services Division facility since the end of 2021. Before that, they had to rely on other agencies’ facilities which took longer.
Now, officers said they can get the job done fast and help keep guns out of the wrong hands.
“Being able to connect those to other cases in CPD and also throughout the Lowcountry with other agencies and doing that quickly, really helps us from an investigation standpoint,” said Sgt. Elisabeth Wolfsen.
In 2021, CPD processed about 400 guns.