MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Local law enforcement is trying to combat gun violence with a special database after a disturbing rise of gun crime in Memphis.

“I always say crime has no zip code. Now I’m saying gun violence has no zip code. It’s an epidemic in our community,” Sarah Carpenter said.

Her 17-year-old grandson was fatally shot back in August. He was only 17 years old. She doesn’t know who shot him or why.

Braylon is one of dozens of children and hundreds of homicide victims in Memphis so far this year.

The city, yet again, setting a grim record while also topping the charts for crimes involving guns.

The first half of the year was the highest it’s been in six years.

“Our communities don’t like the violent crime,” said Mickey French.

He is the area’s special agent in charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

“Any kind of technology that can assist and enhance investigations is going to be a benefit,” French said.

French invited WREG to Birmingham, Alabama for an exclusive look at the special technology he working to grow to combat gun crime.

He said when police collect shell casing from a crime scene or when they test-fire a recovered weapon, they place it into a machine to get a high definition image. It picks up markings not visible to the naked eye.

That image is then entered into a database called the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network or NIBIN for short.

NIBIN contains 4.5 million pieces of ballistic evidence recovered from across the country.

Experts at the ATF’s Huntsville, Alabama center will then compare that evidence against the new image to see if there are any matches.

“The pressure that pushes the bullet down the barrel, also pushes the shell casings on the breechface,” ATF Intelligence Specialist Gregory Griffin said.

He said it leaves a mark on the shell casing unique to the weapon just like a fingerprint. 

“It’s a game changer. It’s a new tool that has come out in the last few years to where you can identify serial shooters and get them off the street,” Griffin said.

The ATF says if the shell casing doesn’t have a “hit,” it’s still stored in the system for future use. Right now, it doesn’t work on bullets.

Before NIBIN, the process was performed manually and was very time consuming. 

“It’s speeding up getting that lead to the detective or investigator,” French said.

Now, the results are ready within 48 hours and investigators can determine if different shooting scenes are connected. They can quickly follow up with witnesses, pull security footage or get with other agencies to compare notes.

Hopefully, solving the crime.

Memphis Police Deputy Chief Samuel Hines said the NIBIN is helping tremendously.

He said NIBIN generated 1,050 leads for MPD this year, resulting in 52 arrests.

The ATF told WREG one of those cases was a first degree murder in January. They wouldn’t give us exact details since the investigation is ongoing, but did say NIBIN linked the murder to nine other shootings and is still developing additional links and individuals involved.

Guns reported stolen in Memphis between January and August

Our investigation uncovered that more than 2,100 guns were reported stolen from January and August 2021.

More than half were taken from cars. That’s a huge increase compared to the same time last year.

January through August 2021

We also found out that MPD seized more than 3,300 guns so far this year, surpassing 2020’s count by 61 percent.

The same trends other cities have been seeing since the onset of COVID.

Do you still think it’s pandemic related or do you think this is our new normal?

“I don’t want to accept it as our new normal right now. It is what we are facing,” Hines said.

As cases pile up for MPD, Carpenter wonders if her grandson’s murder will ever be solved. SHe hopes MPD is using NIBIN and every tool they can.

“I think it’s a state of emergency,” Carpenter said. “They are not through with the case yet. I trust God first. Then I trust MPD to do their job.