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Advertisement feature: Every gun tells a different story

Friday, 19 September 2014

Date - 15th September 2014


The National Ballistics Intelligence Service aims to provide a world leading intelligence capability that builds upon existing good practice to ensure that we are in the best possible position to allow UK law enforcement agencies to quickly solve crimes involving firearms.

NABIS is committed to identifying the few individuals who actively import, store and supply illegal firearms and to track down the people involved in illegally converting or adapting firearms.

The Service was launched in November 2008 and works with police forces as well as partner agencies such as Police Scotland, British Transport Police, Ministry of Defence Police, the National Crime Agency, the UK Border Force and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Using tactical, strategic and forensic intelligence the Service is tasked with linking firearms incidents in quick time across England and Wales whilst developing a national understanding of the use, supply, importation and manufacture of illegal firearms.

NABIS undertakes examinations of firearms forensically through dedicated hubs across the UK. This work is key to supporting police forces and help law enforcement tackle the criminal use of firearms.

The NABIS Hubs are located in Birmingham, London and Manchester (staffed by forensic scientists employed by the Metropolitan, West Midlands and Greater Manchester Police forces). There is a further hub in Scotland which is operated by the Scottish Police Authority for, and on behalf of, Police Scotland.    

The forensic scientists work in state-of-the-art laboratories.  As well as traditional optical microscopes, workshops and range facilities - the four labs have access to comprehensive firearms reference collections and library facilities. In addition, there is the ability to make use of other co-located forensic capabilities such as fingerprint enhancement and the most sensitive DNA profiling techniques.

Before NABIS was developed there was no system to record the recovery of firearms or ammunition nationally. Free database training is offered to forces by NABIS staff to help build a comprehensive picture of firearms incidents. The NABIS database identifies and tracks recovered ballistic items from the moment of recovery through the examination processes to the eventual moment of their destruction.

Police forces were reliant on waiting for forensic results to show links between incidents and this could be slow and expensive. Before NABIS there was no co-ordinated means of sharing intelligence on the criminal use of firearms. For example, a Senior Investigating Officer trying to solve a fatal shooting incident could expect to wait weeks for important test results. Now NABIS is in place, those weapons or ballistic material can be fast-tracked and test results available within 24 hours. NABIS drivers collect weapons and other items from forces around the UK and take them back to the relevant labs. Forces pay an annual subscription for NABIS services, which are then free at point of use.

NABIS also offers face-to-face assistance to police officers and staff via our dedicated force liaison officer.

Recent firearms legislation changes have come about after advice and input from NABIS who work closely with the Home Office and other senior leaders to influence debate on national issues, for example the recent firearms legislation changes around antique weapons and sentencing for supply offences.

The NABIS team also works closely with the Association Chief Police Officers (ACPO) lead for Criminal Use of Firearms, Deputy Chief Constable Dave Thompson, and helps co-ordinate and support important work such as police firearms surrenders or amnesties.

Gun crime levels generally have fallen since the birth of NABIS but there is no room for complacency and experts must be alive to any emerging threats in the world of weapons.   

NABIS has also been involved in the pioneering work around 3D plastic printed weapons. Experts at Warwick University and Manchester Metropolitan University have helped NABIS with printing of parts and the detection of 3D weapons. Tests were carried out at the Birmingham hub to see if a 3D weapon could be successfully located on a person who may try to, for example, take such a plastic gun through an airport, which ultimately proved this not to be possible.

Also assisting in work around the possible threats from 3D printed weapons is the Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST). This government organisation is made up of scientists and engineers who develop technological solutions to fight crime.     

NABIS experts have carried out test firing of the 3D printed weapons at one of their purpose built ranges to highlight the potential risks to offenders or curious individuals who may get their hands on a 3D plastic weapon. Various national media organisations have visited the NABIS hub to learn more about the issue and help the Service warn potential users of the risks involved.

The important work of NABIS was also featured earlier this year on BBC Crimewatch Roadshow when tv crews visited the Birmingham hub. Head of NABIS, Detective Chief Superintendent Iain O’Brien, and Lead Forensic Scientist Martin Parker also took part in the Channel 5 primetime TV show ‘Britain’s Crime Capitals’, which highlighted gun crime in Liverpool.

NABIS are looking for a new head of unit to lead this exciting national organisation and carry on the important work of tackling gun crime across the UK.


If you have the confidence, energy and vision for this interesting role please visit our job advert here.

The closing date for applications is the October 6, 2014.

To find out more about the job opportunity, please contact DCS Iain O’Brien, NABIS Head of Unit, on 0121 6267114 or via email tonabis.support@west-midlands.pnn.police.uk.

For more information about NABIS visit www.nabis.police.uk.