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Central Ohio gun crime hub to improve evidence collection and ability to track firearms

Most gun crimes are committed by men, but women also help buy, hide and sell guns for others.
Most gun crimes are committed by men, but women also help buy, hide and sell guns for others.

Governor Mike DeWine joined central Ohio law enforcement officials and Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther to announce a new center to track firearms that have been used in crimes.

DeWine says the Central Ohio Crime Gun Intelligence Center will work with local, regional and national law enforcement to use a technology called the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) to trace guns used in crimes. He says this technology shares ballistic evidence of guns used in crimes to map out a gun's criminal history and can help take the weapons off the streets.

"When crime scenes have the same gun in common, authorities could use that information combined with other evidence like surveillance video, ShotSpotter data and vehicle descriptions to build a case, and to identify who pulled the trigger at each offense," DeWine said.

A key advantage the hub will provide law enforcement besides collaboration with local, regional and national agencies is a more efficient system for processing evidence, like shell casings that Ohio State Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Charles Jones said is like a fingerprint for a firearm, because of tool marks left on it. This will bring the processing time for such evidence down from months to just hours.

"It's a regional crime gun intelligence center. So we encourage departments in central Ohio to utilize [it],"DeWine said.

The center is being housed at the Ohio Department of Public Safety headquarters in Columbus.

The new center comes as violent crime, particularly homicides involving firearms, is rebounding from last year.

Mayor Ginther says Columbus police have already recovered 2,500 firearms connected to crimes this year, and that 90% of the city's 114 homicides so far this year have involved a firearm. Ginther said last year the city recovered 3,300 firearms and the city had a total of 140 homicides.

The new center is building on plans by Columbus and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to make central Ohio a regional hub for solving crimes involving gun violence. Earlier this year, the city of Columbus proposed an additional $5 million to fund the NIBIN technology.

"The size and scale of our commitment should come as no surprise when you consider the fact that 90% of the homicides in the city of Columbus involve the use of a firearm. This startling statistic holds steady year after year," Ginther said.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.