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Leveraging NIBIN Leads: 4 Technologies That Can Assist

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Speed and efficiency are more critical than ever when solving gun crime investigations, and one of the most important techniques in this effort is the ability to track guns that are used in gun crimes. Knowing which guns are used in multiple crimes can lead to making connections between people and places that provide leads to solving the crimes and clearing cases. To support that effort, the ATF established the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) in 1997, an automated ballistic imaging network. To date, the NIBIN system stores almost 6 million pieces of ballistic evidence and has generated nearly 650,000 leads. For the system to work optimally, the ATF highlights four best practices. These include:

  • Comprehensive collection
  • Timeliness
  • Investigative follow-up
  • Feedback

In this article, we’ll discuss how three different products in the SafetySmart Platform ultimately complement these four best practices and facilitate more effective gun crime investigations.

ShotSpotter: Gunshot Detection Technology Assists with Comprehensive Collection & Timeliness

More than 80 percent of gunfire incidents nationwide are not reported to the police, a staggering statistic. ShotSpotter fills this troublesome gap with networks of acoustic sensors that can detect, locate, and alert police to the precise location of a shooting. Leveraging ShotSpotter enables a far greater level of shell casing recovery compared to a scene where, either no one called 9-1-1, or the actual location of the gunfire cannot be determined. With ShotSpotter, more shell casings from shootings can be entered into NIBIN.

Furthermore, timeliness is of the utmost importance when effectively navigating gun crime investigations. ShotSpotter addresses this timeliness component by notifying police of the precise location of gunfire incidents in under 60 seconds. This enables officers to arrive at the scene quickly, render aid as needed, and collect more evidence which, as we’ve already discussed, can expedite the gun crime investigation process.

How A Case Management System and Law Enforcement Data Management System Complements Investigative Follow-up

The ATF provides a set of guidelines around investigative follow-up which includes:

  • Developing and implementing a plan to integrate NIBIN with other forms of intelligence.
  • Identifying information needed by investigators.
  • Triaging NIBIN Leads to determine investigative priorities and tasks.

While the NIBIN Enforcement Support System (NESS) serves as an extremely useful repository for all NIBIN information that pertains to firearms, it does not provide the resources needed to manage tasks and assignments of an ongoing gun crime investigation within the agency. This is where a case management platform like CaseBuilder proves essential.


CaseBuilder provides patent-pending technology to import, capture, and complete NIBIN lead entries directly to track and manage investigative follow-up.  CaseBuilder collects information about investigations connected by the same firearms NIBIN leads matching, and the powerful link analysis capabilities enable investigators to take the NIBIN leads and build out a picture of the network of incidents and people the gun in question has been associated with. CaseBuilder also delivers structured and unstructured data searches across NIBIN leads, correlated case synopsis details, and investigative narratives. This provides a much clearer picture of the weapon’s history and streamlines the ability to manage gun cases, clear cases effectively, and identify the most violent repeat offenders for prosecution.

Furthermore, the case folder can be shared with other relevant stakeholders as applicable, allowing agencies to collaborate across jurisdictions to collect and disseminate intelligence, monitor criminal enterprises and groups, and manage confidential informants—all in conformance with national standards.

CaseBuilder also provides tools for managing the investigation and prioritizing tasks. Investigators managing a gun crime investigation can use CaseBuilder’s searchable, chronological case index and pre-configured, customizable checklists to ensure they are consistently following best practices and delegating tasks appropriately based on the current bandwidth of investigators in their department.



The SafetySmart Platform’s law enforcement data management system, CrimeTracer, also plays a significant role with regard to investigative follow-up. Here’s how it works: CrimeTracer deploys the most comprehensive set of law enforcement data in the industry, allowing agencies to access critical and relevant information from not only their agency’s systems, but across their city, county, state, and country. In the context of a gun crime investigation, we can determine from data in NESS if a firearm has been associated with multiple cases, but we will lack the larger connective tissue linking these cases (and potential associated leads) without a tool like CrimeTracer to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

CrimeTracer is a powerful tool, delivering a Google-like search access to over 1.2 billion CJIS records, for investigative follow-up.  CrimeTracer provides actionable insights beyond all the initially linked cases through powerful analytics and visualization. This includes enabling law enforcement to search data from agencies across the country using natural language speech terms and concepts. CrimeTracer also provides real-time visualizations that help identify crime trends and persons/vehicles/locations, etc. of interest to investigate further, and ultimately help prevent further criminal activity in the process by removing serial shooters from the equation.


Leveraging a Case Management Platform to Distribute Feedback

Feedback for all parties involved in the NIBIN process is vital to sustaining a successful NIBIN program. CaseBuilder’s case disposition and dissemination are secured means of communicating outcomes to the ATF. Additionally, CaseBuilder supports a supplemental conferral, which is useful for documentation and communicating directly with the ATF on a CGIC case associated with a NIBIN Lead.  CaseBuilder also delivers reports, analytics, and dashboards to assist agencies in illustrating feedback with CJIS partners and make sense of case workload and impact on their operational resources.  These reports also provide the ability to identify trends and satisfy local, state, and federal DOJ grant opportunities.

CaseBuilder is designed for seeing a case through to its conclusion, including the ability to securely share and organize case folders and associated contents with CJIS partner agencies and prosecutors.

Additionally, the case management system’s collaborative capabilities facilitate the means for agencies working together across jurisdictions, crime divisions, or work units to effectively communicate with one another regarding the outcome of a case.


While managing gun crime is a daunting task, it is also attainable with the right tools, technologies, and strategies. By leveraging ShotSpotter, NIBIN, CrimeTracer, and CaseBuilder, law enforcement agencies will be sure to make progress toward this monumentally important and increasingly urgent goal.

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Author Profile
Joel SteMarie
Joel SteMarie is the Director of CrimeTracer Customer Success at SoundThinking. As a career law enforcement...Show More
Joel SteMarie is the Director of CrimeTracer Customer Success at SoundThinking. As a career law enforcement technologist, strategist, and evangelist, he has spent the last quarter-century advocating for law enforcement effectiveness and officer safety through the use of advanced technologies. Show Less
a man with a beard and a blue shirt
Author Profile
Jamie Algatt
Jamie has worked in public safety for over 20 years as a first responder and partner. His expertise is...Show More
Jamie has worked in public safety for over 20 years as a first responder and partner. His expertise is web-based, cloud-native solutions for public safety utilizing Windows and mobile platforms for delivery. Jamie has helped implement enterprise solutions with some of the largest law agencies in North America and internationally. At SoundThinking, Jamie helps agencies achieve higher case closure rates by successfully implementing CaseBuilder. Show Less

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