COLUMBUS — Last week, Governor Mike DeWine joined Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Ohio State Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Richard Fambro to announce a joint initiative which will give local law enforcement officers increased access to valuable technology to help them identify criminals responsible for deadly shootings and other incidents of gun violence in Ohio.
As part of the new Ohio Ballistics Testing Initiative, the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Office of Criminal Justice Services will award a total of $10.5 million to the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) to increase the number of National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) units in Ohio from seven to 16.
The joint initiative will provide more opportunities for law enforcement to submit firearm evidence for scientific analysis, while simultaneously decreasing turnaround time on testing results.
“We must do more to hold accountable the small number of dangerous criminals who are responsible for most of the gun violence in our state — the convicted felons who have lost their right to possess firearms, yet they continue to carry and use guns to hurt and kill people,” said Governor DeWine. “By more than doubling the number of NIBIN units in Ohio, we’ll give our local law enforcement partners easier access to this crime-solving technology to help develop investigative leads that result in arrests. With the help of this initiative, we are confident that more gunmen will be brought to justice, future shootings will be prevented, and lives will be saved.”
Firearm forensic scientists use NIBIN to analyze microscopic markings on bullets and shell casings associated with criminal investigations and compare them to firearm evidence connected to other crimes. A match indicates that the same firearm may have been used in multiple shootings, and law enforcement can use this information as an investigative lead.
Of the $10.5 million in funding, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office will receive $9.2 million to place five new NIBIN machines at BCI’s state crime labs in London, Bowling Green, and Richfield. BCI will also begin using two transportable NIBIN units to test evidence on-site in underserved areas of the state, such as southeast Ohio’s Appalachian region.
“Every bad guy’s gun tells a story – and that story leads back to the bad guy. But it takes science and data and technology to be able to read that story,” said Attorney General Dave Yost. “Today’s initiative means more bad guys in prison, where they belong, and fewer guns where they don’t.”
The OSHP, which currently outsources its ballistics testing to other Ohio labs, will begin testing all of their own evidence with two new NIBIN machines located at the Ohio Department of Public Safety headquarters in Columbus and at the OSHP Cleveland District Headquarters in Brookpark. As part of this initiative, OSHP will also accept firearm evidence from local agencies for testing free of charge.
“By bringing NIBIN technology in-house at the Ohio State Highway Patrol, we’ll take some of the testing burden off other labs so that scientists can focus solely on local cases,” said Col. Richard S. Fambro, Patrol superintendent. “We’ve had great success using NIBIN to connect illegally-possessed firearms found during our traffic stops to gun violence cases in communities throughout the state, and we expect more positive results when the initiative is fully underway.”
Ohio’s existing NIBIN units are located at police departments and crime laboratories in Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, and at BCI’s Richfield lab.
The grants awarded are funded through the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA). In December, DeWine and the Ohio General Assembly dedicated $250 million in ARPA funds to first responders to help them address various pressing issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including an increase in violent crime. In addition to the Ohio Ballistic Testing Initiative, this funding will be used to support local law enforcement agencies in their efforts to reduce violent crime, increase recruitment, and eliminate testing backlogs at crime laboratories and coroners’ offices in the state.