From 6 – 17 May 2019, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC), in collaboration with the Government of Guyana, created a physical open case file (OCF) of ballistic samples from unsolved firearm crimes. This initiative improved Guyana´s ability to link gun crimes and reduce impunity in cases of armed violence. An OCF can provide an immediate intelligence product as to whether or not a gun has a history of use and is therefore a significant investigative tool. By collating all crime scene bullets and cartridges, the police or national laboratories can potentially link cases using firearms and ammunition evidence recovered at different crime scenes, as well as firearms recovered independently from a crime scene.
Two firearm examiners and two assistant firearm examiners from the Guyana Police Force, as well as two Scientific Officers from the Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory participated in the two-week exercise to create an OCF. This included test firing recovered weapons, reviewing test fire procedures, documenting reproducible firearm marks found on spent casings and bullets, conducting microscopic examination of casings and bullets, and documenting, uploading and searching data recovered from spent casings and bullets in an OCF database.
Data from ammunition recovered from 19 gun crimes that occurred between 2012 and 2019, many of which were never examined, were entered into the newly created OCF database along with test fires from one crime gun recovered independently of a crime scene. The OCF revealed that there were several shooting incidents where as many as three rifles were used. This preliminary information, if the OCF continues to be populated, would inevitably identify links between repeatedly used crime guns; this underscores the importance of having a searchable, physical open case file to combat impunity in cases of armed violence.
The creation of an OCF in Guyana is made possible thanks to the support of the government of the United States of America.
UNLIREC, as the regional organ of the UN Office for Disarmament, seeks to advance the cause of practical disarmament in Latin America and the Caribbean as part of its commitment to support Member States in their implementation of international disarmament and non-proliferation instruments, in particular, the 2001 UN Programme of Action on Small Arms.