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Ballistics Testing System Aims to Cut Crime in Cumberland County

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FAYETTEVILLE — Fingerprinting revolutionized crime fighting. Now there is a new device having the same impact on law enforcement.

The ballistics testing system is a high-tech ammunition analyzer.

The system has already helped Cumberland County investigators solve four crimes and they expect to use the evidence to convict two accused killers.

To demonstrate how the system works, Lt. Durry Cannon fires a Chinese SKS rifle into a 1,500 gallon tank of water. The water helps protect the shell and shell casing.

Each bullet and shell has a distinctive marking that is used to identify weapons fired in crimes. Sheriff's deputies then take the spent bullets and casings from the water.

Using a camera mounted like a microscope, they are able to enter the information into a database.

"It's really amazing that you can take a bullet from one crime scene, put it in a machine and you have a bullet from another crime scene and put it in the machine and they match," says Willie Carroll, a technician at the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators can get the results back the same day. Before this ballistic identification system was available, any weapon used in a crime had to be sent to the SBI lab.

"They would test fire it and then compare it to any projectiles that they had. They didn't have a database, so it would take anywhere from months to maybe even a year or more, depending on if that weapon was ever used before in a crime," says Cannon.

Thanks to the new system, more than 500 weapons which were confiscated, found, recovered or in evidence have already been added into the database.

As deputies enter in more weapons they expect to get more convictions.

Cumberland County's system is one of only three in the state. The system costs about $145,000 and came from money provided to the county by the ATF.