Thank you, Marvin. Now after that very lengthy and very generous introduction, I hope you all can wake up. So, it is great to be here, great to be with you. And since Marvin has bragged on his daughter justifiably, let me brag on Marvin for a minute.
First of all, Marvin, thank you for that very kind introduction. But most importantly, thank you for your leadership at the ATF, and thank you for your service. This man, I don’t need to tell this group, is the quintessential public servant. If I had a dime for every time Marvin told me, it’s just about the mission, it’s just about the people. And he lives it every day. And I am grateful to call him a partner and a friend and a colleague, and this department and this bureau is exceptionally lucky to have his service and to have his continued service. So, thank you Marvin very, very much.
And I want to thank the men and women of the ATF for putting this event together and all of you for taking the time out of what I know are exceptionally busy schedules, 24/7, to be here and to attend today.
There is no higher priority for the Department of Justice than keeping the American people safe. That’s why every day we are committed to working with you, our law enforcement partners, to do just that, through prevention through and through prosecutions.
Now, in my conversations with law enforcement leaders, many of you here today, I am hearing a common refrain, whether it’s from police chiefs, sheriffs in jurisdictions large and small. I’m hearing about new and pressing challenges that you’re facing, including – among other things – the rise in juveniles committing violent crime, the rise, the alarming increase in the number of ghost guns being recovered at crime scenes and new threats like 3-D printed machinegun conversion devices.
Now, I also recognize that all of this is coming against a backdrop where law enforcement is being asked to do more and more and more. And all of that is happening while too many law enforcement members are losing their lives in the line of duty.
That’s why we have to do all we can to help you, to provide support, to provide resources, to help you do the job you do every day when you get up to protect and serve your communities. This convening, I think, is a great way, and I think it’s designed, to bring together law enforcement leaders and innovators to share best practices – all of you who are valued ATF and Department of Justice partners – to share best practices, to share innovative investigative techniques. The goal is my mind is simple – to share those best practices, to spread the word about great partnership tools, like NIBIN, like eTrace, and to increase, frankly, the number of partners who are using these tools and realizing the benefits from crime gun intelligence.
Because for every ballistic match and every trace that’s conducted, that’s a crime could be solved and frankly more importantly, a crime that can potentially be prevented. I have seen this technology in action thanks to many of you who have demonstrated it to me – but most importantly, I’ve seen these partnerships in action – at the NIBIN mobile command center, which is here today as I understand on display, where D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department is everyday testing and conducting ballistics analysis on crime guns, those crime guns that are being recovered every day at crime scenes. And those MPD officers are doing that testing and that tracing and that analysis sitting side by side with ATF partners. I’ve seen these partnerships in action at New York’s Crime Gun Intelligence Center – where state, local, federal partners are daily coming together to share intelligence, to share information about the shooters and about the guns that they’re using so that we can take those shooters and take those guns off the street.
This meeting that’s convening is just one example and one effort by the Department of Justice to help implement the Comprehensive Strategy for Reducing Violent Crime that we launched last year. That strategy has four very basic but very, I think, important principles that each strategy is built around:
1) Fostering trust and legitimacy in the communities that we serve;
2) Investing in community-based prevention and intervention programs;
3) And setting strategic enforcement priorities, meaning going after the most violent offenders; and finally, and frankly,
4) Measuring our efforts – not only in numbers and statistics, although those have their place, but in the actual reduction of violent crime and violence being perpetrated in our communities.
We know that working collaboratively with federal, state, local and Tribal partners – including prosecutors, probation and parole authorities – that collaboration is essential to identifying the best available intelligence and identifying the violent crime challenges that are at root and affecting particular communities.
When it comes to violent crime, I think we here in Washington can do some things. We can identify and support strategies, and we can share proven practices and investigative techniques, but we at the Department of Justice recognize that it is you and your teams who know best what works in your communities and the fact that local jurisdictions need to tailor their efforts to address the particular challenges facing you and your communities.
The most pressing problem in one jurisdiction might be the rise in domestic violence as a result of or following the pandemic; for others, it is likely an uptick in violence arising from the drug trade, particularly as we are seeing disturbingly, fentanyl trafficking; and in other communities of course, we’re seeing especially troubling increase in youths committing violent crime and doing so with guns.
Precisely because there’s no one size fits all solution, each U.S. Attorney’s Office around the country has reviewed and updated its Project Safe Neighborhood (PSN) plan to identify and address local drivers of violent crime. The PSN program, as I think many of you know, brings together federal and state and local law enforcement in partnership with community groups and research institutions. And earlier this year, at the Attorney General’s direction, each U.S. Attorney’s Office convened with its partners to hone those efforts.
The department-wide comprehensive strategy and these individual PSN plans recognize that strategic enforcement is key to reducing violent crime, meaning going after the most violent offenders and taking them off the streets. Now, we all know that modern technology presents many challenges to law enforcement – we are all increasingly collecting terabytes of data in our investigations, and that same evidence is often locked behind encryption. But, technology and data of course can also do much to strengthen our law enforcement efforts and help us make the most of too often too limited resources.
And ATF is leading the way in using technology to leverage it and to help reduce violent crime, and to help our partners in those efforts. Collecting and analyzing fired shell casings and crime guns is at the heart of identifying and solving gun crimes and arresting the shooters before they can strike again. It’s precisely this intelligence that’s derived from this data that can link shooting events to each other, to the perpetrators, identify those shooters in an evidenced-based, intelligence-led policing strategy.
NIBIN of course provides timely ballistics information in what are very often very fast-moving investigations – and this is a unique resource ATF can provide, and it’s a unique resource for our law enforcement partners. The success and the growth of this tool is fueling ATF’s expanded use of forensic science, data analytics, intelligence and modern law enforcement research.
And through eTrace, of course, law enforcement partners can directly submit firearm trace requests – via the web – to the National Tracing Center. Those same users can then receive the trace results, search a database of all firearm traces and perform analysis.
Using this data – and using it together – investigators can uncover patterns of firearms trafficking, identify illegal and “straw” purchasers and develop leads to recover firearms used in violent crimes. This is intelligence-led policing at its best – and I think our goal ought to be to get it into as many hands as possible. And although, as I understand it, firearms tracing by ATF is on the rise and is at records even in the last month I’m told, unfortunately though – Marvin also tells me that only 51% of police departments are using these programs. So I have an ask of you today, and that ask is that each one of us is a voice to lift up the value of these programs, to spread the word on the benefits of participating in these programs. Because even if your particular case doesn’t benefit from a particular piece of crime gun intelligence, you adding to that pool of crime gun intelligence, I am sure, is going to help solve someone else’s case.
And that’s why today’s discussions about how to best use NIBIN, how to best use that technology and eTrace, to generate actionable leads, to assist investigations, that’s why these discussions I think are so critical to our collective efforts.
Because we all know and we’ve all learned over time that the more information, like NIBIN, like eTrace, that’s accessible to law enforcement, the greater chance we have of identifying, and arresting, the most violent offenders on our streets – while reducing the flow of crime guns. And this has been demonstrated time and again with the very successful Crime Gun Intelligence Centers in each of ATF’s field divisions and in the local and regional Crime Gun Intelligence Centers, or CGICs, that many of your agencies have established. These CGICs collect, analyze and distribute intelligence and data about crime guns, mass shootings and major incidents across multiple jurisdictions.
In fact, the ATF, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Pennsylvania State Police, HSI and the Marshals Service all pooled their efforts together recently on a particular case where over 300 firearms were recovered, 11 defendants charged, all as a result of a firearms trafficking investigation that ranged from the Atlanta to Philadelphia. And NIBIN hits were key to linking the dozens of these firearms to multiple shootings.
The Department of Justice is committed to providing the financial support, the training, and technical assistance to our state, local, Tribal and law enforcement partners through its grant offices, just like the Bureau of Justice Assistance that is presenting I understand it later today.
The collaboration of all of the organizations and all of your department represented here today is essential: incorporating NIBIN, incorporating eTrace data analytics into every Police Department and Sheriff’s Office ought to be our goal.
Make no mistake, our work is of course, far from complete. But every step we take toward this goal and every step we take together – in combating firearm-related violence – is crucial. ATF and the Department of Justice stand with you, with your departments, with your personnel. And we will continue these partnerships, and leveraging technology, intelligence, research and proven strategies to make our communities safer and free them from the scourge of gun violence. I want to thank you for everything you and the professionals who you represent do every day to keep us safe. Thank you for your partnership and thank you for being here.