Drugfire was an electronic database that contained digital images of fired bullets and casings. This system was equivalent to the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) developed for fingerprints or the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS ) developed for classifying and storing DNA profiles. This system allowed for law enforcement agencies to submit images of crime-related fired bullets and casings to the database. The database then classified the images based on the different characteristics exhibited by the bullet or casing. The database returned to the submitting agency a list of bullets or casings that were present in the database, and could have been fired by the same firearm. The scientist then sorted through the list to identify any matches. This tool was a paramount improvement in the cross-comparison of firearms , bullets, and casings. There were 171 state and local law enforcement agencies that participated in the Drugfire program.
As an illustration, imagine that a firearm is used in a murder in Washington, D.C., and no suspect was identified in this crime. The crime scene investigators retrieve the bullets from the crime scene and submit them to the laboratory, which in turn, submits them to the Drugfire database. At that point, no hit (match) is found and the crime goes unsolved. Six months later, the same firearm is seized from a suspect in a completely unrelated crime. When the forensic laboratory submits the images to the database, the images from Washington, D.C. are listed as a potential match. The firearms examiner looks at the images and links the firearm to the homicide, which provides assistance to the crime-solving process.
Drugfire was developed by Mnemonics Systems, Inc. for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI ). It was first implemented by the FBI in late 1989. Similarly, the then Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF ) developed a system called Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS) . In 1996 the National Institute of Justice assisted the FBI and the ATF in rendering both databases compatible with one another. In 1999 a memorandum of understanding between the FBI and ATF was signed, and the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) was created to unite Drugfire and IBIS under one unique system. The system chosen for this database was IBIS, and Drugfire was then phased out.
see also Caliber; FBI crime laboratory; Identification.