30th May 2014

Bob Jones, the Police and Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands force area, visited the Birmingham NABIS hub this week (May 28).

Mr Jones wanted to see for himself the innovative work being undertaken by NABIS the National Ballistics Intelligence Service.

The team of expert forensic technicians examine and test firearms and other ballistic material submitted by police forces across the UK, usually following a crime.

The purpose built lab can assist police investigations by identifying key evidence, as well as potentially linking gun crime incidents and specific firearms.

Three other hubs, based in London Manchester and Scotland, also carry outNABIS work, thereby providing atruly national service.

As well as traditional optical microscopes, workshops and range facilities, the four labs have access to comprehensive firearms reference collections and library facilities. In addition, there is the ability to make use of other co-located forensic capabilities such as fingerprint enhancement and the most sensitive DNA profiling techniques.

Critical to the service are the latest generation IBIS (Integrated Ballistics Identification System) comparators, capable of carrying out the automated linking of bullets to both crime scenes and recovered weapons.

IBIS technology is located at each Hub and links in with the NABIS Database, thereby providing police forces with the world's first integrated firearms intelligence capability.

PCC Bob Jones said: "NABIS is a great British success story and is at the cutting edge as far as science is concerned. We have seen this in their demonstration of the potential for people to print guns. NABIS plays an essential part in the fight against gun crime. Its pioneering work has done much to help us understand criminal firearms and bring many of the perpetrators and some of the most vicious crimes to justice.

NABIS has been operational since 2008 and works to reduce gun crime levels and provide a national centre of excellence for forensic science, intelligence and knowledge.

One of the latest initiatives which NABIS experts are engaged in is the testing of 3D printers and detectors. The relatively new threat of 3D printed weapons is being investigated by colleagues at Warwick University and Manchester Metropolitan University who are working with NABIS to understand the risks. PCC Jones watched a test firing of a 3D gun at the Birmingham lab this week and was told more about the issue.

Detective Chief Superintendent Iain O'Brien is head of NABIS. He explained: "There is a danger to those users of 3D printers who experiment in trying to make and fire a weapon. We need to make people aware that producing a firearm in this way is illegal and could cause serious injury to the person holding the gun, as well as to any intended victim. There is a curiosity factor with 3D printers and those interested in playing around with the technology may not realise the high risks they are facing".


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