Ballistics Analysis Project Externship

By: Sue Weston

Over 50 law enforcement professionals representing multiple agencies including the Bureau of ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) from New Jersey and Washington DC, a NJ Prosecutor's Office, several NJ State Police offices, ballistics experts, Rutgers Centers on Policing, CCICADA and the Police Foundation from Washington DC, and others gathered to hear the results of an analysis of New Jersey ballistics data.  This was the culmination of an externship presentation for the Professional Science Masters program in which three students lead by Dr. Christie Nelson partnered with the New Jersey Police Department to analyze the data.  The project champion, Major Geffrey Noble indicated that this collaboration and its findings set a new standard for data-driven decision making.

The students did some statistical exploration to identify cross-agency relationships for multiple events linked to the same weapon (linked cases). They looked at what firearms were used in linked events and the distance between linked events. Because each gun has a unique marking, like a fingerprint, analyzing a fired bullet (shell casing) can determine if the same gun was used. Using this intelligence law enforcement can evaluate processes and policies in order to prevent a gun from being fired again, and proactively save lives.

Next, the students build models with this data to see if they could begin to predict when the next linked event would happen or where it would happen. The predictive power of the ballistics data may help law enforcement prevent the next violent act and disrupt the cycle of violence.

Student externs Aishwarya Gunde, Ingrid Wijaya and Usama Saifi with Dr. Christie Nelson, NJSP Analyst Robyn Johnston, project champion Major Geffrey Noble and Lt. Colonel Raymond Guidetti Deputy Superintendent of Investigation