ROYAL MALAYSIA POLICE REDUCING FIREARM RELATED CRIME USING AUTOMATED BALLISTICS IMAGING TECHNOLOGY

By Supt. Shaikh Abdul Adzis B. Shaikh abdullah Royal Malaysia Police Forensic Laboratory
(11 April 2011)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Ballistics imaging technology has received national attention as a powerful tool for improving the Royal Malaysia Police (RMP) response to firearm-related crime by linking multiple crime scenes to one firearm. This paper will show the impact of ballistics imaging technology on the productivity of the RMP Forensic Laboratory. Cost-effectiveness estimates and qualitative evidence will also suggest that ballistics imaging technology allows the RMP to make hits that would not have been possible using traditional ballistics identification methods.

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INTRODUCTION Every firearm has individual characteristics – much like the uniqueness of human fingerprints – that are transferred in the form of microscopic scratches and dents to the projectiles and cartridge casings from the firearm itself (U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms, 2001). The barrel of the firearm marks the bullets that travel through it and the breech mechanism of the firearm marks the ammunition cartridge casings from which the bullets are fired. When bullets and casings are recovered at a crime scene, these unique markings provide law enforcement agencies with an important opportunity to determine whether the bullets or casings were fired from a specific suspect’s firearm. Recovered crime guns can also be test-fired and the resulting bullets and casings from one crime scene can be compared with ballistics evidence at

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During the early 1990s. The IBIS system maintains a database of digital ballistic images of bullets and casings from crime guns.another crime scene to determine whether the crimes were linked to the same gun. it was very difficult to make matches across crime scenes (Braga. digital images of the LEAs (Land Engraved Area caused by the firearm barrel) are correlated. On October 2010. For cartridge casings. developed an automated ballistics imaging and analysis system. the RMP acquired IBIS TRAX-3D to replace the present system. MYBID’s goal is to allow RMP to check digital images of recovered ballistic evidence against a nationwide database of many thousands of images of ballistics crime scene evidence. IBIS technology quickly sorts through large volumes of ballistics evidence and suggests a small number of candidate cases that may match the evidence in question. the comparison of ballistics evidence was a very labor-intensive and time-consuming task as each piece of newly recovered evidence had to be manually compared with a test-fired bullets and casings. with the development of new technology and software that combines both two-dimensional and three-dimensional imaging. In 2005. As new images are entered. given labor and time constraints. IBIS compares the recovered evidence with existing images from prior crime scenes to identify possible matches. RMP selected another automated ballistics system called CONDOR as the standard ballistics imaging technology for their then-proposed Malaysia Ballistic Identification Database (MYBID). 2004). There was no means to automate the process and. and ejector marks. Forensic Technology Inc. firing pin. Using the new IBIS 2 . digital images are correlated based on characteristics such as breech face. For bullets. called the Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS). Firearms examiners then manually look at the candidates and conduct a standard forensic comparison to confirm a match. In the past. if one actually exists.

Firearms examiners did not systematically compare bullets and casings from one scene with ballistics evidence recovered at other crime 3 . 3. Currently. the RMP Ballistics Section has entered some 7128 bullets and 7563 cartridge casings from criminal cases and firearms indexing into its imaging database. reasonable acquisition time. true colour representation of sample that is linked to height data. therefore imaging maximum surface features. minimal generation of artifact and noise in raw sample profiles. This IBIS TRAX-3D was able to meet all criteria proposed due to: • • • • • • • excellent compromise between lateral and vertical resolution.TRAX-3D system.0 MALAYSIA BALLISTIC IDENTIFICATION DATABASE (MYBID) Prior to the adoption of IBIS. and has also produced superior quality images. RMP operations usually consisted of manually matched bullets and cartridge casings recovered at a crime scene to determine whether the bullets or casings were fired from a specific suspect’s firearm. IBIS TRAX3D is more effective in the analysis of a wider range of bullet types. and has generated extremely positive results. 2. optimal working distances to prevent accidental damage to sample and also allowing for the acquisition of a wider range of bullet deformation.0 OVERVIEW OF IBIS TRAX-3D IBIS TRAX-3D is the latest evolution of IBIS and is capable of automated imaging. ability to image steep slopes. enhanced visualization and analysis of spent cartridge casings and fired bullets that have sustained damage or fragmentation. rotational axis for 360 ˚ measurement of cylindrical samples. it’s the only system to provide a five-axis automated imaging stage capable of rotational and lateral movement. It also provides high-resolution 3D and 2D images of a bullet’s topography which is free of distortion. comparison.

cartridges and bullets recovered from crime scenes. if there is a match. The Ballistic Section has made an aggressive effort to collect. Since adopting IBIS. image. Bullets and cartridge casings found at scene of crime are also imaged and entered into the MYBID. known as making “cold hits. cartridges or bullets from different crimes scenes were cross-examined by firearms examiners only in extreme circumstances or where there was a suspicion two criminal events were connected. The first possible way a cold hit occurred was if a firearms examiner recognized some unique markings on a cartridge casing as very similar to markings on a cartridge casing recovered at another crime scene. RMP refers to this process as comprehensive imaging of all crime-related ballistics evidence. RMP are considering using ballistic imaging technology to create statewide systems that contain reference ballistic images of cartridges and bullets from test firings of licensed guns and security forces throughout the country.scenes to determine whether separate gun crimes were linked. When firearms examiners did attempt to make such matches. the RMP Ballistic Section test fires all recovered crime guns. In addition. and enter ballistic evidence from all incidents involving firearms (from homicides to illegal possession cases) into the MYBID. before IBIS was acquired. The other possibility was if a detective developed an investigative lead from a confidential informant that a recovered crime gun had been used previously in another gun crime and would request the firearms examiner to make comparisons of evidence across the crime scenes.” it happened in one of two ways. In sharp contrast. and. The information contained in MYBID could be of significant value in resolving unsolved cases in which ballistic evidence was recovered at the scene of a crime or as a part of the subsequent investigation. the RMP can identify the original owner of the gun in question. By creating such systems. 4 . would search the images against the reference database.

serial number and the history of the firearm. IBIS TRAX-3D is also capable of storing data of 12 gauge cartridges often used by licensed owners and poachers alike. increasing resources and the improvement of the automation process. each site will have one BrassTRAX-3D acquisition station for cartridge cases and one BulletTRAX-3D acquisition station for bullets. IBIS is being used by over 60 countries – a testament to the system’s good reputation among the countries using it to help solve firearm crime. make. This further enables the 5 . The increase in productivity refers to upgraded staffing by reducing manual functions. IBIS TRAX-3D equipment will be installed in five regions throughout Malaysia (North Region. model.0 OUTPUT AND BENEFITS FROM IBIS TRAX-3D All firearms related crime cases which occur throughout Malaysia will be referred to the MYBID. burdens will be reduced and productivity will be improved. Apart from keeping ballistic data. The sharing of information is faster and more effective. South Region. The system also has sustainability in terms of computer software and parts that are easily available for maintenance and future improvements. which is located at RMP Forensic Laboratory in Kuala Lumpur. MYBID can also manage information about licensed guns such as. Ballistic images will be stored in regional.4. 5. server-based databases. East Coast Region and East Malaysia). The BrassTRAX-3D and BulletTRAX-3D stations can also be used in regions that do not have their own firearms examiners. the cost will decline over time. In the long term. Depending upon workload. With the IBIS TRAX-3D system. These stations will be employed to capture image data at the regional level and communicate the data to the central MYBID location for processing and comparison.0 FUTURE DEVELOPMENT In the future.

CONCLUSION The results of this paper suggest that the IBIS TRAX-3D technology significantly increased the productivity of the RMP crime solving program. Now. 6 . ballistics matching across gun crime scenes was an adhoc and tedious process. in particular. The science of ballistics. The cost-effectiveness estimates and qualitative evidence also suggest that the IBIS technology allows the RMP to make hits that otherwise would not have been possible. the RMP can systematically compare recovered gun crime evidence against its entire inventory of evidence with little effort. the IBIS technology significantly increases the ability of RMP to make ballistics matches across crime scenes. has been an important component in addressing violent crimes. Clearly. which are often committed with firearms. Before IBIS was adopted by the RMP.RMP to monitor the movement of firearms and indirectly prevent the misuse and illegal poaching that has become a global issue.

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