A review of the trace data compiled from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2010 (from a data set run Jan. 4 through 6, 2011) of several regions within Southern California revealed the following:
32,673 crime guns were recovered statewide by California law enforcement agencies and submitted to ATF to be traced.
21,802 crime guns were traced by Southern California law enforcement agencies.
Statewide, recovered handguns outnumbered long guns by nearly 2 to 1 – this ratio is consistent statewide.
35 percent of all firearms recovered in California were recovered by Los Angeles County law enforcement agencies, and 17 percent were recovered by the Los Angeles Police Department, primarily within the City of Los Angeles.
Approximately 2,000 crime guns were recovered and traced by ATF Agents from the Los Angeles Field Division as part of ongoing ATF investigations. Additional traces are also initiated by local law enforcement agencies and other federal law enforcements agents as part of joint investigations.
There were over 3,200 crime guns recovered and traced in Southern California from young adults aged 18 to 24, and another 600 recovered from youths aged 12-17.
“One of the tools to protect the public is the tracing of firearms that are recovered and working to solve those crimes with our law enforcement counterparts,” said Torres. “Tracing crime guns is a valuable tool when dealing with crimes of violence involving firearms. These traces provide law enforcement another piece of evidence or a starting point when trying to identify suspects in senseless acts of violence and firearm trafficking crimes.”
A key component of ATF’s enforcement mission is the tracing of firearms on behalf of the thousands of federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies. Analyzing the comprehensive trace results gives ATF the ability to track illegal trafficking patterns and dismantle the organizations that put firearms into the hands of gang members and violent felons. ATF also gains insight into the types of criminal offenses committed in Southern California.
A firearm trace may be initiated by any law enforcement agency. There is no comprehensive federal database of firearm purchases. Firearm traces may result in stolen firearms being returned to an owner who was unaware that the gun was stolen.
One case in particular involved two murder investigations that spanned several years in the Los Angeles County.
Firearms trace information along with NBIN, (National Ballistics Identification Network), helped identify the suspect who was arrested and charged with both crimes in 2010.
Significantly, ATF has received and processed nearly 280,000 firearm traces in California in the last 10 years.
California has considerably more traces than any other state in the country, the next highest state being Florida with approximately 163,000 traces for the same time period.
California Penal Code 11108.3, which went into effect in January 2002, requires law enforcement agencies to trace all firearms recovered in a crime. Since the laws inception, the number of firearms traces increased from 16,000 to more than 27,000, nearly double the number of firearms traced in 2001. The number of traces have continued to increase since then, averaging about 33,000 traces a year in the last four years. (It is anticipated that training provided by ATF and continued system enhancements by CA-DOJ, will result in even more successful traces each year.
“If we can prevent just one violent crime by tracing crime guns with our state and local partners, I will consider this program a success,” said Torres.
More information about ATF and its programs is available at www.atf.gov.