3D imaging helps Ga. lab solve firearm crimes

The resulting images and information are uploaded to a database which connects national law-enforcement agencies

The Valdosta-Lowndes County Regional Crime Lab recently made a high-tech upgrade to its ballistic imaging system to increase the ability to discover links between firearms cases.

The new Integrated Ballistics Imaging System (IBIS) shoots high-definition photos and creates 3D digital images of firearm evidence taken from crime scenes.

The system compares the photos to others entered into regional and national databases to determine if evidence analyzed by the crime lab matches evidence gathered elsewhere, said crime lab criminalist Shannon Floyd.

The system is not designed to match evidence to a firearm, however.

Actually matching a gun to a bullet or shell casing still requires human analysis from criminologists like Floyd who conduct microscopic examinations of evidence.

“If a crime happened today, and the investigators think this was the gun, they are going to submit the gun, submit the bullets and say, ‘Is this the gun?’ We don’t even have to have this system to do that. We do a comparison and do a result on our own,” Floyd said. “(IBIS) is an additional tool to not only say that this was the gun but to also say we put it in the database, and now it has hit on something from two years ago that we didn’t even realize was related.”

The process begins when an agency submits a firearm and evidence to the crime lab for analysis. Criminologists at the lab test fire the gun, collect and analyze the evidence and use the IBIS for digital imaging.

For imaging a bullet casing, it is secured in a specially designed cradle which is placed inside the imaging system. An array of automated cameras photograph the evidence at multiple angles and take digital measurements.

The resulting images and information are uploaded to a database which connects law-enforcement agencies across the country.

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