The June 10 front-page article “Where killings go unsolved” discussed an alarming trend: The homicide rate has risen while case closure rates have declined. As the article noted, “Almost all of the low-arrest zones are home primarily to low-income black residents.”
One of the consequences of this dynamic is further deterioration of trust between law enforcement and community members. Closing more cases could begin to rebuild this relationship. As firearms account for 7 in 10 homicides in the United States, new technology called microstamping could play an important role in increasing the case-closure rate by providing law enforcement with exponentially more usable ballistic evidence.
Currently, ballistic technology relies on the unintentional tool marks left on a cartridge. These marks must be matched to a recovered firearm to begin the tracing process. If no firearm is recovered, a definitive match is not possible.
Microstamping creates microscopic alphanumeric and geometric engravings on a cartridge as the gun is fired that identify the weapon’s serial number. This enables law enforcement to use an expended cartridge case to trace a firearm without physically recovering the gun.
By allowing law enforcement to solve more firearm homicides in communities of color, microstamping could help police officers demonstrate a commitment to assisting these communities and gain community trust as a result.
Josh Horwitz, Washington
The writer is executive director of the
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.