How ATF Is Working to Improve NIBIN
by John Risenhoover
In 2012, under the direction of then Acting Director B. Todd Jones, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) embarked on an internal evaluation of one of its most critical programs, the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN). The NIBIN program had been operating essentially unchanged since its initial deployment in 2001. As part of ATF's evaluation process, ATF agreed to share data with NIJ-funded researchers who, under a competitive, peer-reviewed process, proposed to conduct an independent examination of the NIBIN program.
The findings contained in the NIJ-funded review confirmed the conclusion from ATF's internal evaluation: To maximize the program's potential, ATF and its partner agencies need to approach NIBIN as an integrated multiagency, multidisciplinary process, rather than a standalone technology.
ATF fully supports that approach and has incorporated virtually every recommendation from the NIJ-funded review to facilitate the modernization of the NIBIN program. Many of these recommendations were implemented before the review was completed.
Most importantly, the ATF Crime Gun Intelligence Concept (CGIC) employs a holistic approach to gun violence, using NIBIN as the cornerstone technology. The CGIC requires four distinct processes taken directly from the review:
- Comprehensive collection (gathering all suitable ballistic evidence, without prioritization)
- Timeliness for the entire CGIC process (with the goal of providing preliminary findings or lead information to investigators within 48 hours of an incident)
- Follow-up (integration of criminal intelligence information and dedicated investigation)
- Feedback loops (incorporation of a continuous feedback throughout the CGIC)
In addition, the NIJ-funded researchers concluded that ATF's NIBIN metrics, which were focused narrowly on numbers of shell casings entered into the system and on hits, were actually activity metrics, rather than the performance metrics that are so vital to effective program management. In response, ATF added outcome-based CGIC performance metrics focused on the identification, targeting and prosecution of criminal shooters and their sources of crime firearms. Not coincidently, these metrics form the cornerstone of the new NIBIN mission statement:
"Identify, target and prosecute shooters and their sources of crime guns."
ATF has leveraged the findings and recommendations of the NIJ-funded review to make significant improvements to the overall NIBIN program. Recognizing the intrinsic value of ongoing independent review, ATF is hoping to continue working with NIJ and its researcher-partners in an ongoing evaluation of the NIBIN/CGIC program, thereby ensuring that law enforcement has the most efficient and relevant gun violence reduction program now and in the future.
About the Author
John Risenhoover is an ATF senior special agent and the national coordinator for the NIBIN program.
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