ATF Snapshot 2008
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is a principal law enforcement agency within the Department of Justice (DOJ) dedicated to reducing violent crime, preventing terrorism, and protecting our Nation. ATF has dual responsibilities for enforcing Federal criminal laws and regulating the firearms and explosives industries. The combined efforts of special agents and industry operations investigators (IOI) allow ATF to identify, investigate, and recommend for prosecution violators of the Federal firearms, explosives, arson, tobacco, and alcohol diversion laws. ATF uses this team approach to ensure that firearms and explosives licensees operate within established laws/regulations.
Violent Crime Reduction
The Violent Crime Impact Team (VCIT) initiative pursues violent criminals and reduces occurrences of firearms-related violent crime through geographic targeting and proactive investigation and prosecution. Multiagency enforcement teams identify, target, disrupt, arrest, and prosecute the “worst of the worst” criminals. These efforts produce long-term reductions in firearms violence. Since its launch in 2004, VCIT partners have arrested approximately 14,000 violent criminals and recovered approximately 17,000 firearms. There are currently 31 VCIT cities throughout the United States.
ATF is the lead Federal law enforcement agency in DOJ’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN). PSN uses a comprehensive strategy to reduce gun violence and promote safe communities. PSN coordinates the efforts of local, State, and Federal law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and community leaders in a multifaceted strategy to deter gun violence.
ATF’s firearms-trafficking interdiction initiative reduces violent crime by decreasing the availability of illegal firearms and by identifying, investigating, and arresting individuals who illegally supply firearms to prohibited persons (including felons and juveniles). As a primary enforcement concern, ATF vigorously investigates violent street gangs, which are often involved in firearms trafficking to divert weapons for use in firearms-related crime and to further drug-trafficking activities.
ATF has highly trained and experienced investigators who are experts in processing arson and bombing scenes. Its certified fire investigators (CFI) are unique in Federal law enforcement and provide expertise in the origin and cause of fires. ATF’s certified explosives specialists (CES) have developed an unmatched level of expertise in post-blast analysis, and explosives enforcement officers (EEO) have unique technical capabilities in explosives threat assessment and bomb disposal. In FY07, ATF investigated approximately 3,500 fire and explosives incidents.
ATF’s explosives jurisdiction and expertise give it a unique role in the national effort to prevent terrorism. ATF is the world’s leader in explosives investigations and training, providing that expertise to the U.S. military, the State Department, and local, State, and other Federal law enforcement agencies worldwide. Since 2001, ATF’s National Center for Explosives Training and Research (NCETR) has trained more than 8,000 bomb technicians and investigators. ATF provides explosives training to the Iraqi Police Service and at the International Law Enforcement Academies in Botswana, El Salvador, Hungary, and Thailand. ATF also trains military explosives units prior to and during their deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
ATF works in Iraq with the Combined Explosives Exploitation Cell (CEXC), whose role is to provide immediate, in-theater technical and operational analysis of improvised explosives devices (IED) used by insurgents. In this country, an ATF special agent/CES serves as deputy director of the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC), which examines IED debris that the CEXC submits from Iraq and Afghanistan.
ATF operates the U.S. Bomb Data Center, the DOJ repository for all explosives and arson information and databases. One of those databases, the Bomb Arson Tracking System, allows State, local, and other Federal law enforcement agencies to share information about bomb and arson cases and incidents. The U.S. Bomb Data Center is also home to a multilingual explosives intelligence management system that ATF and other international law enforcement agencies use to share information and intelligence on explosives incidents, devices and methods, terrorist groups, and firearms.
ATF is DOJ’s lead agency for training explosives and accelerant detection canines used by Federal, State, local, and international law enforcement agencies. Since 1995, ATF has trained over 700 such canines deployed in 21 countries. ATF explosives detection canine teams assist with investigations and support public safety by finding explosives devices and evidence. ATF accelerant canine teams are utilized during investigations to identify substances that are used to commit arson. ATF has developed the National Odor and Recognition Test to scientifically judge the proficiency of explosives detection canines to certify their training and abilities.
Protecting the Nation
At the end of FY07, approximately 60,000 U.S. Federal firearms licensees (FFL) were authorized to conduct commerce in firearms. An additional 50,000 Federal firearms licenses were held by collectors. In FY07, ATF performed more than 15,000 firearms license compliance and application inspections and processed over 14,000 applications for new firearms licenses and approximately 23,000 applications for license renewals.
ATF IOIs help ensure lawful storage of explosive materials by more than 11,000 Federal explosives licensees and permittees. In FY07, IOIs completed more than 6,000 explosives inspections and detected over 2,500 explosives industry public safety violations. In addition, ATF processed more than 1,500 applications for new explosives licenses and approximately 2,300 applications to renew existing licenses.
ATF enforces Federal criminal statutes (including the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act) that address diversion of tobacco products in schemes designed to avoid paying Federal, State, local, and/or foreign taxes. Organized crime groups and persons with ties to terrorist organizations increasingly engage in illegal trafficking of tobacco products. The proliferation of large-volume trafficking across international borders and in interstate commerce provides increased funding to terrorist organizations and traditional criminal enterprises and robs governments of significant revenue.
Southwest Border Initiative
Through its Southwest Border Initiative, ATF works to curb firearms trafficking and the violence associated with it along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Project Gunrunner is ATF’s primary Southwest Border firearms enforcement initiative for promoting border safety for Mexican and U.S. citizens. Through its Gunrunner strategy, ATF works with domestic and international law enforcement partners to deny “the tools of the trade” to the firearms trafficking infrastructure of criminal organizations operating in Mexico and along the border.
ATF has established a Gun Desk at the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) El Paso Information Center (EPIC) as a central repository for weapons-related intelligence. The Gun Desk compiles weapons information and intelligence from Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies, as well as foreign governments.
ATF inspections of FFLs and their licensed distributors in the affected areas are crucial to stemming the illicit flow of firearms between Mexico and the United States. These inspections detect and prevent the diversion of firearms. This industry operations component of the Southwest Border firearms enforcement initiative includes forward traces, secondary market inspections, and outreach to industry and other law enforcement agencies.
Other ATF Resources and Assets
GangNet — In its continuing fight against gangs and the weapons they possess, ATF has partnered with the Regional Information Sharing System to host the ATF GangNet Intelligence Database for the benefit of all law enforcement. The database houses all of ATF’s gang-related information and is capable of compiling gang information provided by ATF’s partners at the local, tribal, State, and Federal law enforcement levels.
National Gang Targeting Center — The National Gang Targeting Center is home to 80 intelligence analysts, special agents, prosecutors, and support personnel from different agencies working together to investigate and dismantle the most violent gangs in the United States. The new site brings together two gang deterrence units – the National Gang Intelligence Center (established by Congress in 2005) and the National Gang Targeting, Enforcement, and Coordination Center (GangTECC, created by the Attorney General in 2006). The units assist local, tribal, State, and Federal investigators and prosecutors throughout the United States with gang-related investigations. The facility is staffed by personnel from ATF, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, DEA, the U.S. Marshals Service, the National Drug Intelligence Center, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Gang Squad prosecutors from DOJ’s Criminal Division. This is a prime example of mutual cooperation, partnering, and information sharing.
NIBIN — ATF provides investigative support to its partners through the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN), which allows Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies to image and compare crime gun evidence. NIBIN currently has 203 sites. In FY07, NIBIN’s 174 partner agencies imaged more than 183,000 bullets and casings into the database, resulting in over 5,200 matches that provided investigative leads.
Gun Tracing — ATF’s Comprehensive Crime Gun Tracing Initiative is the largest operation of its kind in the world. In FY07, ATF’s National Tracing Center processed over 285,000 trace requests on crime guns for over 6,000 law enforcement agencies in 50 countries. ATF uses a Web-based system, known as eTrace, that provides law enforcement agencies with the capability to securely and electronically send trace requests, receive trace results, and conduct basic trace analysis in real time. More than 1,900 agencies currently use eTrace, including 10 foreign law enforcement agencies. Gun tracing provides information to international, Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies on the history of a firearm from the manufacturer (or importer), through the distribution chain, to the first retail purchaser. This information is used to link suspects to firearms in criminal investigations, identify potential traffickers, and detect in-state, interstate, and international patterns in the sources and types of crime guns.
NRT — ATF National Response Teams (NRT) consist of highly trained special agents, forensic chemists, engineers, and professional support staff who can be deployed within 24 hours to major explosion and fire scenes anywhere in the United States. Since its inception in 1978, the NRT has been activated more than 650 times, assisting Federal, State, and local agencies with fire and explosion scene reconstruction; identifying and investigating the seat of the blast or origin of the fire; facilitating forensic laboratory analysis and testing; and providing expert witness testimony. The International Response Team works with the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service to provide technical, forensic, investigative, and oversight assistance on international explosion and fire incidents.
National Laboratory Services — Firearms examiners, fingerprint specialists, and forensic chemists in ATF’s Laboratory Services Division provide forensic investigative services and support from stateof- the-art laboratory facilities. In addition, several mobile labs extend ATF’s capabilities directly to investigative scenes, providing assistance to Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies nationwide. The Laboratory Services Division includes the regional forensic science laboratories and the Fire Research Laboratory, the first facility in the world dedicated to supporting fire scene investigations. ATF also operates the National Firearms Examiner Academy for firearms and toolmark examiners and provides extensive forensic and other training for fire and arson investigators.
NCETR Facility — ATF is establishing a permanent, state-of-the-art facility for its NCETR. At the new facility, ATF will fully integrate its explosives-training, research, and information-sharing activities under one roof, providing maximum synergy across these interrelated disciplines. Additional range and classroom space will enable ATF to meet increasing demand from Federal, State, local, and international partners for its advanced post-blast and other explosives-training classes. The explosives ranges, laboratories, and office space will provide another location where members of the interagency explosives research community can collaborate and conduct testing.