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Channel 2 Action News is getting an exclusive look inside the local effort to solve violent crimes.
We were with Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens on Thursday as he got a close-up look at a Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lab and learned about a new crime-fighting initiative that’s already showing some success.
The ATF special agent in charge told Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne that much like a fingerprint, a gun leaves unique marks on a shell casing that the lab can use to find out if it was used in a particular crime and often to tie that gun and a suspect to other unsolved crimes.
“We want work together, early and often, and consistently to be able to bring down violent crime in our communities,” Dickens said.
Winne was with Dickens as he got a close-up look at the technological firepower of the ATF that might be used against the firepower in the hands of bad guys who are killing and hurting people.
“We’ll get, say, evidence from a crime scene, maybe two crime scenes, and there may be one shell casing, there may be 50. We can get results out in less than 24 hours,” ATF Special Agent in Charge Ben Gibbons said.
Dickens said he wanted to meet with Gibbons to max out what the federal agency can do in fighting violent crime in Atlanta, especially when it comes to guns, where ATF has expertise no one else does, as well with gangs and repeat offenders.
“I know they add a lot of value in solving our crimes,” Dickens told Winne. “Were working active cases right now. We just talked about a few active cases. Gun and gang cases, drive-by shootings, information relating to some very disturbing things that have happened in our communities, things that have happened across city lines.”
“At ATF our mission is to combat violent crime,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons said he briefed the mayor on a new violent-crime initiative involving ATF’s National Integrated Ballistic Information Network where authorities can take shell casings and feed that information into a computer system that can quickly search for how many gun crimes the shells might match up with.
“The marks that it leaves on shell casings are unique to that firearm and that firearm only,” Gibbons said.
Now Gibbons said he’s created a NIBIN strike force of agents and local police, including the Atlanta Police Department, focused on getting the ballistic evidence from the street to the lab in major violent crimes.
“We’ve had several successes,” Gibbons told Winne. “APD already works closely with ATF, but we want to boost that and amp it up.”
Gibbons said while he’s worked around the country for ATF, he went to Morris Brown College and started as a rookie agent in metro Atlanta, and for years he mostly worked gun trafficking here — and came back here a year ago.
“I wanted the opportunity to come back home and make a significant impact,” Gibbons said.
“Ben Gibbons is the right man for the moment. I want to make sure that we get all the help that we can get, to be able to keep folks safe. That’s the goal,” Dickens said.
Gibbons said one of the early successes by the NIBIN strike force linked a multi-time convicted felon to a shooting in a park in Atlanta and to another shooting in East Point. Some of their cases will lead not only to state charges against suspects but also to charges in federal court.
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