Given the highly mobile nature of today’s population and the ready availability of technology tools, solving gun crime has to become more strategic in nature. Where once, solving a gun-related crime might have been something seen as a local issue, today those same incidents can have area-wide, state or even regional implications.
We spoke with Pete Gagliardi, 30-year law enforcement veteran, firearms expert and author of The 13 Critical Tasks: An Inside-Out Approach to Solving More Gun Crime, to learn more about what area justice leaders can do to become more effective at solving gun crimes in their area.
[This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]
Justice Clearinghouse Editors (JCH): What exactly is a gun crime intelligence program, what does that entail, what does it include? We’ve talked about it, but let’s maybe define it so that we’re using the same phrase.
So [if you think about it], you wouldn’t turn up to a crime scene with only one tool — any more than a plumber would answer a service call with a single wrench. It’s what that we mean by using all the tools in the crime solving toolbox.
So a crime gun intelligence program would mean that we bring the right people together that we need, with the right data. We need people from law enforcement, the police officers, investigators, the first responders to collect the evidence, we need the ATF because they have NIBIN and they have eTrace and they’re able to provide that information as well as investigative support and other firearm related resources. We need the forensic labs because they’re going to extract additional evidence and information from the guns and evidence that we collect. In addition, it might be Shot Spotter, the acoustic detection system that identifies where gunfire occurred. So you might bring that information into the pot.
If we’ve got a murder, [we’ll process] the inside and outside of the gun: processing for ballistics, DNA, latent prints, hair fibers, all of that. We leverage that with the Shot Spotter data. And maybe we’ll leverage that with other information like cell phone data. For example, do we have any cell phones that repeatedly show up in the area of different crime scenes? Are there CCTV cameras like in the ATM machines that have a view of the street? Is there a home or business nearby that has a camera aimed outside?
So, it’s asking ourselves, what are all the sources of information available? A successful investigator knows how to manage their sources of information, and brings them all together.
That’s really what a crime gun intelligence program is: bringing the right people together, collecting comprehensive and relevant data as a standard process or protocol and leveraging the various layers of technology, to help make the processes more efficient, effective, and much faster in order to stop armed criminals before they have a chance to re-offend.
Imagine if you have a washcloth and it’s soaking wet. [The water represents] all kinds of bits and pieces of information. We need to wring out that washcloth for every drop of information that it has when we’re focusing on gun crimes: everything, no matter how seemingly insignificant.
JCH: And these are all pieces of overall strategy and program, but it sounds like there’s also opportunities for gaps – for things to get dropped at times, or maybe for things not to be done as quickly as it might be handled. Can you talk about those gaps?
The investigative process is a big round pie, and we’re going to cut the pie into three slices or phases.
The first slice is to respond to the incident and collect information. If you think about people involved in that, they’ll be patrol officers. There might be crime scene technicians, and they might answer to different supervisors and up different chains of command. There might be a medical examiner who answers to a completely different chain of command outside of the police department, maybe in the county or state government. Maybe there’s the sheriff’s office or maybe even federal task force people may come to the scene.
“…standard processes in place that everyone is following,
every crime, every time.”
Pete Gagliardi, author
So you might have a number of different skills and disciplines represented by different people who respond to the scene, who respond to a different chain of command. So everyone that responds should know ahead of time who’s going to do what? When they’re going to do it? What can I expect from you, what can you expect from me?
I call these handshakes, but there should be formal agreements in place and a written policy/SOP so…
JCH: …operating procedure like you were talking about.
So now, after they respond to the crime and collect information, we move to the second slice of the pie – the extract and analyze phase.
In the extract and analyze phase, for example, we might be sending the evidence that’s been collected to the laboratory. They’re going to analyze it, and generate more information about that. Or it could be as simple as the initial police report goes into the second phase where supervisors and detectives look at it and start thinking about what do they need to do next. Do I need to talk to someone else? Do I need to setup surveillance?
Going from the first phase to the second phase, again you have to have the right people involved, executing standard processes, and using tools to make them efficient and effective.[But] there’s a “gap” between Phase one to Phase two. And depending on the balance of people, the processes, and technology, that gap could be narrow or that gap could be wide.
What you want to do is make the narrowest of gaps so you could build the smallest of bridges, so you could do the handoffs. We need smooth handoffs, like in a relay race with a baton. They’re going to hand off the original information collected to the second group of people who might be completely different than the first group of people.
After the second phase, where we’ve extracted additional information, now we’ve got to pass it on to investigators and prosecutors in the third slice or outcome phase of the investigative pie: Identify, Apprehend and Prosecute – the criminal shooter.
So there are more handshakes that need to have taken place directing how that sharing of information is going to be done.
In many places, if you’re not, for example, doing NIBIN and you’re not tracing guns through eTrace, your gaps are going to be really big between one phase and the next.
If you don’t have standard processes in place that everyone is following, every crime, every time, you’re going to have big gaps and there’s going to be lots of good stuff falling through the cracks – never making it to the next phase and certainly never making it to the third and final outcome phase.
So it’s all about handshakes and handoffs and narrowing those gaps and making sure that you can bridge them because sometimes the information has got to go backward between phases for further review or confirmation and then come again back across the gap on to the next phase in the clockwise flow around the investigative process pie.
To learn more, check out our webinars:
September 28: Forensics at the Speed of Crime
November 16: NIBIN for Prosecutors
And our recorded webinar: Making Gun Crime a Priority in Your Region.