Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS)

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Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS)

When bullets and shell casings are shot from firearms they can leave unique marks, which when examined by forensic scientists can link a particular firearm to a specific crime. Before 1998, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI ) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF ), both under the U.S. Department of Justice, developed independent imaging systems and databases to analyze and store ballistic images. The FBI system was called Drugfire , while the AFT system was named IBIS (Integrated Ballistics Identification System).

The Integrated Ballistics Identification System was purchased in 1993 by the ATF from its developer, Forensic Technology, Inc. (FTI) of Montreal, Canada. The project, which eventually turned into IBIS, was begun in 1990 in order to provide law enforcement professionals with the ability to use digital computer images of ballistic evidence and to assist crime laboratories with a growing number of firearm-related crimes.

The IBIS uses sophisticated electronic and optical technology to digitally compare evidence stored in the database. Initially, IBIS equipment photographs the surface of fired bullets and casings from crime scenes and laboratories. Upon entering a new image into the database, the system searches for a match by using advanced mathematical algorithms to correlate the new image against previously stored images. Using filters such as caliber , date of crime, date of entry, and rifling specifications, the correlations produce lists of possible matches. A forensic examiner then visually compares the matched images on a computer monitor. If a possible match is found, the images are compared with actual evidence by an examiner on a microscope for a final determination. Once an identification is confirmed in association with at least two different crimes, a unique identifier is assigned for future reference to that image.

Leaders of the FBI and ATF realized that their two systems (Drugfire and IBIS) were incompatible and agreed in the 1990s that both systems needed to transmit information between each other. In May 1997, the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) board was created to develop a national imaging system. One year later, FBI and ATF officials agreed to pursue the joint development of one system, using only the IBIS, and created the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network. In December 1999, FBI and ATF leaders signed a memorandum that defined their individual roles: the FBI was granted responsibility for providing the communications network and the ATF was given responsibility for field operations. Forensic Technology was awarded the NIBIN Expansion Contract in 2002 for products and services relevant to IBIS. By the end of 2002, IBIS systems had been installed in 233 U.S. crime laboratories as part of the NIBIN and, as of the beginning of 2005, IBIS systems were used in over thirty countries by thirty-three local, provincial, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. The IBIS technology has allowed law enforcement officials to match over 32,000 pieces of evidence and has helped to open thousands of new investigative leads.

see also ATF (United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms); Ballistics; Computer forensics; Drugfire; FBI (United States Federal Bureau of Investigation).