From 1 – 11 April 2019, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC), in collaboration with the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis, created a physical open case file (OCF) of ballistic samples from unsolved firearm crimes.
Phase 3 of the UNLIREC’s Combatting Illicit Firearms and Ammunition Trafficking in the Caribbean through Operational Forensic Ballistics, sought to develop a physical OCF to improve St. Kitts and Nevis´ 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 independent of a crime scene.
A Firearm Examiner, Scientific and Crime Scene staff from the Royal St Christopher and Nevis Police Force 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 three gun crimes that occurred over seven days were entered in the newly created OCF database along with test fires of two crime guns recovered independently of a crime scene. A search of the database revealed presumptive ‘hits’ between five cartridge cases from one of the scenes and the two firearms. This preliminary information linking previously unknown gun crimes highlights the importance and relevance of having a searchable, physical open case file to combat impunity in cases of armed violence. Following these observations, firearm examiners will analyse the ballistic evidence to confirm the linkages.
The creation of an OCF in St Kitts and Nevis 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.