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Arlington police launch pilot program, partnership to curb gun violence and solve cases across DFW

A woman wearing a dark blue shirt with an Arlington Police crime scene badge and blue latex gloves looks at evidence through a microscope. She's sitting in front of a computer and a wall that says "IBIS TRAX HD3D."
Courtesy Arlington Police Department
An Arlington Police Department crime scene technician enters evidence into the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, which APD and other agencies use to track and connect weapons and people involved in violent crime cases.

Arlington police have partnered with federal officials to pilot a team that uses data from crime scenes to address — and curb — gun violence and other violent crimes in the city and across North Texas.

The nine-person group uses a federal database called the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN), which law enforcement agencies use to trace and connect ballistics evidence to weapons, incidents and people involved in violent crime scenes.

The database isn't new to Arlington: the city police department has used NIBIN for up to 14 years in investigations. However, the NIBIN Engagement Team (NET) focuses entirely on using the database to make sense of connected events and does not get assigned cases.

"(NET members are) just strictly getting NIBIN hits and saying, 'OK, is there something here that I can do with this and work on this? Has this person been at multiple shooting scenes, and how can we use this as an investigative lead?'" Deputy Chief Kyle Dishko said during a press conference.

The NET pilot launched July 25, according to APD. Since then, leads from the database have led to 25 arrests. The department runs it in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Arlington is one of 273 agencies that has partnered with the ATF to enter evidence. Agencies across the U.S. have entered over 5.6 million ballistics evidence items that have led to over 604,000 leads since the database's launch in 1997.

Deputy Chief Kyle Dishko, wearing a blue Arlington Police uniform, speaks in front of a timeline showing links to a crime. The timeline is posted to a wall that shows a collage of pictures around Arlington: AT&T Stadium, an APD badge and a star emblazoned with the badge and a thin blue line.
Kailey Broussard
/
KERA News
Arlington Police Deputy Chief Kyle Dishko discusses a chart, right, that maps out evidence surrounding cases in 2020 and 2021 compiled using NIBIN data during a press conference Oct. 5, 2022.

Chief Al Jones said he's proud of the work that has come out of the team in its first couple months. The program will run through January, when the department will assess whether the department can feasibly make NET permanent.

"I believe it has the potential to be a game changer in our ongoing battle against gun violence, not just in Arlington, but in the entire DFW community," Jones said.

The NIBIN Engagement Team consists of one sergeant, three detectives, three officers, one crime analyst and one special agent from the ATF.

The department has received 328 NIBIN leads this year that have connected leads throughout DFW, with some hits connecting incidents as far back as 2017, Dishko said.

Jones said while overall crime in Arlington is down, the city has seen an increase in gun violence and gun violence-related deaths. Addressing the increase has been a central focus for Jones since he took the helm in early 2021.

"We know a lot of the violence that we're seeing is experienced and is driven by illegal guns in our city and illegal gun activity," Jones said.

The police department modeled Arlington's program after similar ones in Nashville and Denver. A police spokesperson says APD leaders believe their program is the first in North Texas.

Got a tip? Email Kailey Broussard at kbroussard@kera.org. You can follow Kailey on Twitter @KaileyBroussard.

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Kailey Broussard is a reporter for KERA and The Texas Newsroom through Report for America (RFA). Broussard covers the city of Arlington, with a focus on local and county government accountability.