Forensic Scientists Use ‘Gun DNA' to Track Guns Still on the Streets

Forensic scientists are collecting data on bullets and shell casings to connect shootings in D.C. before finding the guns.

In the past, investigators would try to match a bullet to a gun if someone was killed or injured, but other bullets went untested.

Now forensic scientists are collecting data on all shell casings and bullets at crime scenes to track all the times guns are used, even before police actually find the guns.

“We’re now able to see these firearms, even though we haven’t recovered some of them, we’re able to see how they’re being used around the city,” D.C. Department of Forensic Sciences Director Dr. Jenifer Smith said.

“It gives us pretty much the gun’s DNA and allows us to look back at who’s been in possession of a firearm,” Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Chief Robert Contee said. “Ultimate tool for the police department. Obviously not a silver bullet, but a great tool for us.”

Having a gun’s DNA has already allowed police to connect suspects to multiple crimes — including several homicides — through one gun.

Mayor Muriel Bowser said it’s another way to stem the violence as the District continues to see an increase with 129 murders so far this year compared to 115 at this time last year — a jump of 12 percent.

Overall, there have been more than 3,000 violent crimes citywide — also an increase over last year at this time.

The new tracking is made possible through federal funding, which has been increased to allow the gun DNA program to be expanded.

“These investments will help us close cases more quickly and insure investigators have evidence they need to hold criminals responsible for gun-related crimes,” Bowser said.

In addition to the homicides the new program has helped solve, the gun DNA has also led to an arrest in Virginia, where they traced a gun all the way back to the person who bought it and illegally sold it.

The program is being targeted in Wards 7 and 8, which have the highest rates of violent crime and gun violence in the District.

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