FIGURE 1: SIDE BY SIDE COMPARISON OF 2 CARTRIDGE CASES WITH SIDELIGHT
A key point of this paper is that “things change.” Leonardo DaVinci once said that “there shall be wings – if not for me but for another . . .” Yet for centuries, many people believed that flight was impossible. Maybe Renaissance society overlooked DaVinci’s sketches as artistic expression but we wonder what the neighbors must have thought of the Wright brothers when they first began experimenting with flying machines? Today, we take air travel for granted and at the same time we continue to witness new ways of doing those things that were previously thought to be impossible. Just recently, the airline industry introduced a new jumbo jetcapable of carrying 800 passengers and boasting an onboard gymnasium.
Police work is no exception to the effects of advancing science. It too is changing. In recent years, we have witnessed automated ballistics technology go from innovation to mainstream. Ballistics information sharing networks linking hundreds of agencies and labs have been created to do what was previously thought to be impossible – access and query every open case file of evidence on the network in order to find investigative leads. Automated ballistics analysis systems can now sustain the comparison of seemingly insignificant pieces of evidence. Evidence that may appear to be insignificant to one agency may now prove to be the long lost case-breaker for another.
The Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS) is the standard system being used to create ballistics information sharing networks at the local, regional, national, and international level. This type of sharing means investigators and analysts do not have to work in isolation; crimes, cases, and evidence can be linked to other crimes, cases, and evidence. Threats from criminals and terrorists often know no jurisdiction. Ballistics technology allows digital ballistic images of bullets and casings of guns used in crimes to be easily analyzed and compared. Stored in databases that can be networked, the images are then shared among many departments and agencies. The collection of large amounts of possibly relevant rather than definitely relevant evidence along with the ability to identify “matches” routinely has far reaching consequences.