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Combating crime: New ballistics testing machines come to New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New technology that helped the Albuquerque Police Department crack one of its highest-profile gun cases is now spreading statewide. The feds are paying for four new specialty machines that will help track shell casings found at crime scenes.

“I think probably the best example of the impact that NIBIN has had, and sort of shell casing analysis has had, is the Solomon Peña case, for example,” said New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez.

“NIBIN” stands for the ‘National Integrated Ballistics Information Network,’ a program allowing police to compare bullet shell casings from a crime to a national database.

Doña Ana County Sheriff Kim Stewart explained that rounds from crime scenes can be connected to a specific weapon, and she thinks it’s an incredible tool.

Torrez said in the Solomon Peña case, police were able to link the shell casings found at the homes of elected officials to guns that were later linked to Peña. Now, New Mexico law enforcement is expanding its capability to track those casings statewide.

“I was able to work through the appropriations process to get funding this year for a little over a million dollars to put NIBIN machines in Farmington, Gallup, and Las Cruces, and Roswell,” said Senator Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico).

That’s instead of forcing police to drive from all corners of the state to Sante Fe or Albuquerque—the only places New Mexico’s NIBIN machines are now.

“It’s also going to take a lot of time that should be spent on actual shoe-leather police work and put it back there,” Heinrich said.

The four new machines will be part of the AG’s ‘Crime Gun Intelligence Center:’ “To not only establish NIBIN machines and implement them in partnership with local law enforcement agencies but to engage in meaningful training,” Torrez said. ATF agents will assist in that training, Torrez said.

“We need to start stepping up to technology. We need to embrace that which can make policing more efficient, more scientific, more un-arguable in a sense with prosecutions,” Stewart said.

“We, according to the latest UCR reports, are the second most dangerous state in the United States, and according to that same data the unsolved rate of violent crimes is nearly 75 percent,” Torrez said.

They hope these four new machines can tackle all of those cases. The federal funding also pays for a few staff members to work the NIBIN machines for the first year.