Researchers call for Europe-wide ballistic information sharing network to tackle gun crime

All countries across Europe are being urged to establish special ‘Firearms Focal Points’ to collect, study and share information about firearms and ballistics to help reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by gun crime and terrorism.

That’s one of the key findings following a 15-month multi-agency research project led by Coventry University. The EFFECT Project, which launched in February last year, looked to establish a clearer picture of the prevalence of gun crime across Europe and identify initiatives and interventions to tackle the problem.

Recommendations from the project, which was funded by the European Union and supported by the United Nations Development Programmes South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of the Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC), were presented to members of the European Parliament, European police chiefs and heads of international law enforcement agencies, including Interpol and Europol, in Brussels today (Wednesday May 25).

While researchers looked in detail at countries in South Eastern Europe, the recommendations are relevant to all European countries, regardless of whether they are members of the EU.

Coventry University’s Dr Helen Poole, one of the project leaders, said:

“In South Eastern Europe we found that investigators  and prosecutors require additional ballistics intelligence support and training that would  enable them to understand the positive impact that ballistics information can deliver in solving crimes and tackling terrorism.

“Countries also need to have the necessary technology and procedures in place that would enable them to further reduce the availability and use of illegal firearms. If each country created a single ‘Firearms Focal Point’ to gather, analyse and then share information not only about the firearms, but also its pertaining ballistic material, with their counterparts across South East Europe, and beyond, this would be a major leap forward in protecting communities. That is why a proposal is being put forward towards the establishment of the South East Europe Ballistic Information Network.

“Enabling that network to operate alongside a proposed EU-wide network, with ballistic information being shared between countries through agreed protocols and managed by Europol, which already handles criminal intelligence to improve effectiveness and cooperation between states, would allow links between gun crime, criminals and the firearms trafficking across the continent to be identified.”

As part of the research Arquebus, a UK based company specialising in ballistics intelligence, was asked to examine 1,000 gun cartridge cases provided by the Serbian Police Directorate from previous cases in Serbia, and examine them further, working with the country’s National Criminalistic Technical Centre.

Arquebus Director Matt Lewis said: 

“In our examination of cartridge cases in Serbia, using Ballistic analysis systems not currently available in the country, we were able to identify connections relating to around 50 shootings, a considerable number of which were previously unknown. We also compared the results against a number of ballistic databases in other countries and identified potential links with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo and Sweden.

“Firearms are used by criminals on multiple occasions both internally within a country and across international borders. Developing an accurate picture of their use and how they are trafficked is vital and is in the interest of all citizens across Europe and beyond. A Europe-wide ballistic information network will help further reduce deaths and injuries caused by the illegal use of firearms for crimes and terrorism.

“Understanding more about where they originate from, how they move within countries and cross-border, and have been used before will enable the UK to work with other countries to help tackle the problem at source, rather than at our border.”

Further information about the Effect Project, including the agencies involved and the main findings and recommendations report, is available at this link.

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