Auburn, Ala. (WRBL) –  Lee County law enforcement agencies are forming a new task force focused on reducing gun crimes across the community using sophisticated ballistic tracing technology and teamwork.

Auburn and Opelika Police Departments, Lee County Sheriff’s Office, and District Attorney’s Office are partnering to create the Metro Gun Crimes Task Force (MGCTF). In Nov. 2022, the Auburn Police Department was awarded a federal “Project Safe Neighborhood” grant totaling more than $254,000. The grant helps law enforcement reduce gun crimes through innovative law enforcement technology and procedures. As such, APD used the grant to obtain advanced forensic equipment and enroll in the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN).  

NIBIN is nationwide allowing MGCTF investigators to rapidly track and link seized firearm evidence to other crimes across the southeast region. For example, if investigators seize a shell casing from a crime scene in any of their respective jurisdictions, they can rapidly enter the evidence into NIBIN and potentially connect the case to another crime committed with the same firearm in a neighboring city, county, or state. While housed at APD, all agencies participating in the MGCTF will have investigators trained in the use of NIBIN with 24/7 access to the system.

“Local law enforcement agencies partnering to address and prevent gun crimes is a proactive effort that can’t be measured but will be impactful. We are grateful for the partnership,” said Auburn Police Chief Cedric Anderson.

In addition to NIBIN training, all officers participating in the MGCTF will be required to attend additional training focused on legal issues, de-escalation techniques, implicit bias awareness, and proper tactics for criminal interdiction and patrol.    

“The prevalence of violent acts involving firearms is a major concern to all and has visited tragedy in our largest cities down to our smallest of towns. Our local agencies, through this task force, will be able to combine efforts and utilize state-of-the-art technology to increase our efficiency and effectiveness to identify and apprehend violent offenders in the overall goal of protecting our citizens,” said Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones.

The partnership is aimed at increasing efficiency and effectiveness in identifying and apprehending violent offenders and reducing the number of illegal guns on the streets to make the entire community safer. 

“By coordinating our enforcement efforts, this task force becomes a force multiplier for our local agencies. By combining efforts and working together we hope to drastically reduce the number of illegal guns that are on the streets in our communities,” said Opelika Police Chief Shane Healey.

Jessica Ventiere, Lee County District Attorney,  believes firearms in combination with a criminal mindset are a real and present threat to the safety of every member of our community. 

“By working together, our local law enforcement agencies will have a greater impact on reducing criminal activity, particularly gun crimes, all across Lee County. The Lee County District Attorney’s Office will be supporting law enforcement in their efforts, and we look forward to seeing the positive impact this task force will have on the overall safety of our communities,” said Ventiere.