Police open ballistics lab

Tiffany Rankine, a scenes of crime officer trainee, holds a bullet in front of an enlarged image of a projectile. - PHOTO: SPENCER FORDIN

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service unveiled a new ballistics hub Thursday at the George Town Police Station that will greatly reduce the time associated with analyzing and matching bullets and guns.

Previously, when local police had a gun crime, they had to send the bullet overseas for analysis, a process that could take a couple of weeks. But now, thanks to new equipment and a new database, the RCIPS can analyze a pristine bullet in half an hour and a severely damaged projectile in the span of an hour.

The new developments in crime fighting can be traced to new technology. RCIPS will be using the Integrated Ballistic Identification System, known as IBIS, created by Ultra Electronics Forensic Technology in order to enable the automated identification of matching bullets and cartridge cases.

The system consists of three machines – BrassTrax, BulletTrax and MatchPoint – that collectively map and display the characteristics of bullets and cartridge cases. Every fired projectile bears the markings of the weapon that fired it, and Matchpoint can conclusively match gun to bullet.

“IBIS TRAX HD 3-D is the latest technology that has been created by Ultra Electronics Forensic Technology,” said Stacy Stern, regional sales director for Ultra Electronics. “Its high-performance 3-D technology [has] been designed to acquire all different range of caliber from bullets and cartridge casings. It has the capability to match any type of firearm that’s been entered into the system.”

RCIPS had been hoping to get use of that technology for at least five years, and the opportunity presented itself as a result of funding from the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Conflict Security and Stabilization Fund.

The hub will also allow RCIPS to keep a database of information that can be accessed by several other countries. The ballistic matches of Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos will all be analyzed on Grand Cayman, and they can be shared and cross-referenced with the Interpol Ballistic Information System.

Heather McEntire, project coordinator for the Conflict Security and Stabilization Fund, said the new technology will mean a quantum leap for RCIPS in being able to fight serious gun crime.

“As part of the overseas territories directorate with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, part of our responsibility to the overseas territories is to assist police services in developing competency and capability to fight serious organized crime,” said Ms. McEntire. “We recognize gun crime is a very high risk issue, so with this wonderful technology, we now have the opportunity to fight back.

“The Cayman Islands hub not only helps the Cayman Islands investigate gun crime, it’s acting as a hub to assist our other territories, specifically Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Turks and Caicos and Montserrat in investigating serious organized crime and specifically gun-related violence.”

Over time, the plan is for the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police to form a regional integrated ballistics network within the greater framework of the Interpol Ballistic Information System that will allow for more efficient searching and sharing between Caribbean territories.

Ms. McEntire said the Conflict Security and Stabilization Fund handled the funding for the equipment and for four years’ worth of training expenses, and Cayman will not bear any expense related to the program until March 31, 2021.

Several law enforcement representatives from across the Caribbean met in George Town on Wednesday to discuss cooperating and forming their regional information network, and Ultra Electronics staged a pro bono workshop, titled “The 13 Critical Tasks,” designed to streamline the process.

“That was a compilation of what we as a company believe are the best practices that we’ve adopted from all around the world,” said Ms. Stern. “We give workshops to educate new users on different best practices that, if they follow and they respect, they’ll be able to have more success in solving their gun crime.

“Not everything will work for everybody, but we’re in 71 countries around the world with this technology, so we’re able to learn from them and we try to give it back to the community.”

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