But, But, Ballistic Fingerprinting Saves Lives!

Also via Keepandbeararms.com,

State police speak against expanding gun database

Ballistics system has flaws, crime lab director says

No, really?

After finding substantial problems with the state’s ballistic fingerprinting database, Maryland State Police have recommended that it not be expanded.

A 40-page report by the director of the agency’s crime lab concludes, among other things, that the ballistic samples on file are often not from the type of guns used by criminals, and that the state system is not linked to the national database.

To date, the database — which has cost $2.1 million over the past three years — has generated four matches, and in each case, police already had the gun they were trying to trace, according to the report.

Among the problems identified in the report: Some casings submitted by manufacturer Glock have not been reliable; the casings submitted by gun manufacturers are not usually from the type of guns linked to crime scenes; and the state’s database cannot be linked with the national database.

“Not reliable” how, exactly?

Yet Johns Hopkins thinks ballistic fingerprinting is the best thing since sliced bread.

In direct opposition to the findings of a California Dept. of Justice study that predicted precisely what the Maryland report confirms:

The RBID “beta” sites in New York and Maryland currently contain only handgun information. In 2002, there were approximately 12,400 handguns sold in Maryland that were subject to the ballistics imaging requirements. New York ballistically imaged 20,973 handguns in 2002. To date, New York and Maryland have made no matches, or “hits,” with these programs.

Attachment A of this report states:

Automated computer matching systems do not provide conclusive results. Rather, a list of potential candidates are presented that must be manually reviewed. When applying this technology to the concept of mass sampling of manufactured firearms, a huge inventory of potential candidates will be generated for manual review. This study indicates that this number of candidate cases will be so large as to be impractical and will likely create complications so great that they cannot be effectively addressed.

There are several issues associated with an automated imaging concept that have to be considered. These relate to issues that impact the efficacy of the use of ballistics imaging when applied to large numbers of commercially produced firearms. These are:

1. Current imaging systems require trained personnel, ideally a firearms examiner, for entry, searching and verification. The use of technicians typically results in higher numbers of false positives that need to be microscopically compared.

2. Current systems may not be as efficient for rimfire firearms and are limited to auto loading weapons. Proposed systems will not practically accommodate revolvers, rim fires, certain shotguns and rifles. A large proportion of firearms sold in CA may never make entry into the system.

3. It is unknown at this time whether or not the algorithm can successfully ID a cartridge case fired after typical break-in and wear have occurred back to the #1 casing fired at the time of manufacture. Performance Test #7 (See page 8-11) showed that even in a limited database, the ranking of subsequently fired casings could drop enough to fall from a candidate list for consideration. Typically quoted existing research/papers regarding persistence of fired marks on fired cartridge cases were written based on manual comparison by qualified firearms examiners, not automated correlation techniques.

4. All potential “hits” selected for further inspection by computer correlation must be confirmed by “hands on” microscopic examination by a qualified firearms examiner.

5. Firearms that generate markings on cartridge casings can change with use and can also be readily altered by the user. They are not permanently defined identifiers like fingerprints or DNA. Hence, images captured when the firearm is produced may not have a fixed relationship to fired cartridge casings subsequently recovered.

6. Cartridge casings from different manufacturers of ammunition may be marked differently by a single firearm such that they may not correlate favorably.

7. As progressively larger numbers of similarly produced firearms are entered into the database, images with similar signatures should be expected that would make it more difficult to find a link. Therefore, this increase in database size does not necessarily translate to more hits.

8. Fired cartridge casings are much easier to enter, correlate, and review than fired bullets.

9. Not all firearms generate markings on cartridge casings that can be identified back to the firearm.If you’re interested, read the whole report and all the appendices.

So, Maryland has spent $2,100,000 on their automated system, and it’s identified four (4) cases – for guns they already had on hand. It hasn’t identified a single firearm they didn’t have to immediately compare to.

Wow. That’s effective use of taxpayer money, isn’t it?

How many police officer salaries does that represent?

Oh well, I guess they can confiscate some more boats and cash and property to cover the costs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *