ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York State has some of the strictest gun laws on the books in the United States, but that hasn’t stopped the spread of illegally trafficked firearms. NEWS10 learned about the latest tactics used by federal and local agents to solve and prevent gun violence in the Capital Region and beyond.

“It’s not like we can just shut one valve off and it goes away,” said Brian DiGirolamo, Assistant Special Agent in Charge at ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for Upstate New York. If you ask him, the phrase “iron pipeline” is actually a bit of a misnomer for the movement of firearms into our communities.

“We have thousands of different, smaller trafficking networks that are bringing guns up here,” he explained, adding that they aren’t all coming up I-95 from Florida and South Carolina.

“As you go further north from the city, you tend to see more of it coming from New York state itself,” said DiGirolamo.

The significant uptick in gun violence across the country has created a lot of demand within his agency to bring new technology to other crime-fighting entities, like the newly expanded Capital Region Crime Analysis Center (CRCAC) in Albany. It’s part of the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services, or DCJS. The center helps local police departments solve, reduce, and prevent crimes. 

We provide them with whatever information intelligence that we have,” DiGirolamo said, “and they take the local aspect of intelligence, and we merge both of them to push out leads.”

The primary focus of ATF’s work with the Crime Analysis Center in Albany is to reduce the time it takes to get those leads on gun violence. That’s where the NIBIN program comes in.

“It’s the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network,” said DiGirolamo. “We use science and technology to match shell casings to firearms.”

Each firearm has a unique set of tool marks that leave an imprint on shell casings. Agencies can link shootings together through that information. In partnership with ATF, all Crime Analysis Centers in the state are looking to have a NIBIN program in their facilities by the fall. At the time of our interview, the NIBIN program had only been at the center in Albany for 45 days, but that was enough time to see results.

They’re having hits,” DiGirolamo said.

“Of those, we’ve had more than a half dozen where there have been matches to other events, that have been leads to investigations that have been proven beneficial,” said John Riegert, Director of the CRCAC.

He showed NEWS10 the NIBIN machine, a box-shaped piece of tech that can take a shell casing from a shots fired incident, for instance, and tell an investigator working the case within 24 hours where else the gun has been used in a crime, even in a different city or state. 

NIBIN is an examination of ballistic evidence from a crime scene, submitted into a database. That database compares that to evidence from other incidents within our region, then within the greater northeast, and then you can actually compare it, if you’ve dedicated so, across the nation,” said Riegert.

Riegert said the timeliness this tech brings to an investigation is critical, even if it is not a perfect science.

“It’s not the fingerprint, but it’s a 99% likelihood that those two casings match,” he explained, “and it’s certainly enough for an investigator to further the investigation.”

The collaboration is a win-win for local and federal gun violence reduction efforts.

ATF is looking at the federal level for the trafficking process,” Riegert said, “the state police and the other state agencies are certainly looking at the trafficking into the state. Local agencies, the Crime Analysis Center, have an overview of the local activity. Collectively, all those entities sharing information back and forth, really helps drive addressing illegal gun crime.”

Riegert and DiGirolamo agree that, as the world seems to get smaller, and gun violence remains a persistent problem, law enforcement agencies can not be focused solely on the crimes and issues within their own city’s borders.

“What we’re doing here in New York State, is we’re setting a trend for the rest of the nation. It hasn’t been done. Now on the state side, they’re doing a collected data sharing in which all the police departments are mandated to share data, and that’s a first step. It’s breaking down the silos between the police departments and different levels,” said DiGirolamo.

According to DiGirolamo, other states are looking to New York to build out their own model for addressing gun trafficking. So far, the NIBIN program is up and running at Crime Analysis Centers in the Capital Region, Hudson Valley, and Southern Tier.