Illinois law enforcement leaders unveil crime-gun tracing portal

Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 6:55 PM CDT
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CHICAGO (WGEM) - Illinois law enforcement agencies have a new tool to track guns used during crimes. The Attorney General and Illinois State Police introduced the online Crime Gun Connect platform Wednesday morning. They hope the new resource will help police investigate shootings and identify the sources of illegal guns.

Attorney General Kwame Raoul (D-Illinois) says tracing guns used during crimes can help identify the purchaser and co-conspirators or witnesses of a crime. Raoul says the new portal will also allow law enforcement to look at trends and patterns of how guns are getting into the wrong hands.

He explained that federal law has prevented police from digitizing crime-gun data in the past, which frequently leads to more time wasted requesting and searching through the paperwork. Raoul’s office worked with Everytown for Gun Safety and data specialists to design the tool to solve gun crimes faster.

“Crime Gun Connect contains over 100,000 crime-gun trace records from approximately 200 law enforcement agencies in Illinois dating back to 2009,” Raoul said.

The Attorney General and State Police Director Brendan Kelly noted that this website is essential to monitoring gun trafficking and addressing gun violence. Data used in their research show that 60% of guns recovered from crime scenes in Illinois originated out of state.

This portal will be available for law enforcement agencies enrolled in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) e-Trace system and opted in for collective data sharing.

Illinois State Police have already turned to new technology in recent years to increase information sharing within local departments and across state lines. Researchers that worked with state leaders to make Crime Gun Connect believe this website will become a one-stop-shop to prevent future gun violence.

“It will allow them to view information on what type of gun was used, where it was purchased, and the likelihood that straw purchasing was involved, aiding the ability of law enforcement to investigate firearms trafficking,” said Kim Smith, programs director for the University of Chicago Crime Lab.

Smith said the website will also help police identify new patterns and trends in the sale of crime-guns. That could help address questions about which gun models are most often used in gun crimes and the stores they are purchased from.

Raoul’s office also created a free online resource for you to access crime-gun data in your communities. Anyone using the website can find crime-guns traced across Illinois since 2010, over the past year, or within the last 30 days. Raoul said the public website also provides information on crime-guns recovered in each region of Illinois and how many of the firearms were originally sold by out-of-state retailers.

Kids Above All, The Joyce Foundation, and Moms Demand Action support the new tracing platform. Valerie Burgest is the co-chapter lead for the state’s chapter of Mom’s Demand Action and a survivor fellow with the Every Child Survivor network. Burgest thanked Raoul for always being a gun sense champion for Illinois families. She lost her son Craig Williams to gun violence on the south side of Chicago in 2013. Nearly nine years later, his murder is still unsolved.

“This is extremely personal for me,” Burgest said. “Any tool that helps law enforcement solve murders in this city and in this state is an important tool and one that we all will embrace.”

The Gun Violence Prevention PAC also thanked Raoul and Kelly for their work on the new gun data portal. President and CEO Kathleen Sances said tracking the flow of illegal guns and going after straw purchasers are proven strategies to reduce gun violence. She noted that the resource will help police identify and prosecute illegal gun trafficking and gun crimes in Illinois.

“Under the new bipartisan federal gun law signed by President Biden, straw purchasers are now subject to 15-year federal prison terms,” Sances said. “Illinois’ new gun data portal can help turn these stricter statutory sentences into reality — helping stop the flow of illegal guns to gangs and others engaged in criminal violence.”

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