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Forensic Evidence and Criminal Investigations: The Impact of Ballistics Information on the Investigation of Violent Crime in Nine Cities,

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We explore the impact of information from ballistics imaging hit reports on the investigation into violent crimes. Ballistics imaging hits link two crimes involving the same firearm by forensically matching tool marks on the fired bullets or cartridge cases. Interview data collected from detectives who received a hit report were used to explore the relationship between the presence of a hit report and outcomes in 65 gun‐related violent crime investigations in nine U.S. police agencies. Findings indicate hit reports rarely contribute to identification, arrest, charging, or sentencing of suspects, because of delays in producing hit reports. On average, hit reports were completed 181.4 days after the focal crime. This delay forces investigations to proceed without the benefit of information from ballistics analysis. Additionally, hit reports rarely contained detailed information that was immediately useful to investigators. Instead, hit reports required additional research by the investigator to unlock useful information.
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Keywords: National Integrated Ballistics Information Network; ballistic; evidence; forensic science; gun crime; homicide; investigation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2017

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