$5M Gun Database Never Solved a Single Crime in 15 Years

Maryland program finally nixed
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 11, 2015 4:20 PM CST

(Newser) – Since 2000, more than 300,000 bullet casings have piled up in an old fallout shelter in Pikesville, Maryland, the result of an ambitious program launched to catalog the casings in a database, which would then be used to help solve crimes, per the Baltimore Sun. But 15 years and $5 million later, the program has been deemed a failure—not a single crime was said to have been solved with the database's assistance—and the "ballistics fingerprinting" law was repealed on Oct. 1. Parris Glendening, whose administration set up the database while he was governor, is sad to see the demise of his brainchild. "Obviously, I'm disappointed," he tells the Sun. But a local gun-shop owner in Anne Arundel County describes the initiative as "a waste," and gun rights advocate John Lott tells Fox News, "[The] money … could have been better used for actual police and law-enforcement resources."

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Tech issues plagued the system from the get-go. Gun manufacturers had to fire every new gun made in Maryland, then send the casing to the three-room shelter nestled beneath Maryland State Police headquarters, the Sun notes. Each casing got a unique bar code and its picture taken before it was sealed up in envelopes and filed in boxes. In theory, it should've worked, since casing scratches can be matched back to the originating firearm, but the Maryland program was much larger than a successful federal program it modeled itself after, and the database software was so buggy that the Sun notes it "would sometimes spit out hundreds of matches" for one crime-scene casing. A similar program started in New York in 2000 shut down just two years later, per Breitbart. The Maryland law was brought up for repeal several times over the years, but police kept insisting it had potential—until the latest hearing, when its defenders gave up. The casings will now likely be sold for scrap. (Read more Maryland stories.)

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