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Gun-tracing van makes nationwide debut

A new federal van will allow police to more quickly trace guns used in crimes. (Source: WBAL/CNN) A new federal van will allow police to more quickly trace guns used in crimes. (Source: WBAL/CNN)

BALTIMORE, MD (WBAL/CNN) - A new mobile gun-tracing lab has made its nationwide debut.

The ballistics van was rolled out in Baltimore, MD, on Tuesday.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives calls it a game changer in gun violence investigations.

Gun violence almost always leaves a trail of evidence, such as shell casings and bullets.

The idea of this new mobile ballistics van is to trace the evidence faster.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis spoke of the van's strengths.

“If you are taking a gun out the streets to resolve your petty conflicts with firearm violence," he said,  "that's something you need to worry about because it's going to connect the ballistic evidence we recover from scenes. It's gonna connect that evidence to our known bad guys and do so in record time."

Baltimore police have their own crime lab that examines ballistics.

But the ATF's mobile van can deliver results within four hours and better link crime guns to known offenders or other shootings.

Baltimore is the first city where the van is being used.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh noted that the van will reduce the time for evidence gathering.

"What we are saying today is we are preparing to end this violence in Baltimore," she said. "This will cut down on days, but even hours by which we will be able to deal with this issue."

Overall gun violence has long plagued the city.

As persistent as it is now, Baltimore had a far higher rate in the 1990s.

In 1993, the rate of total shootings, fatal and nonfatal, was 340 per 100,000 people.

This year, at the current pace, the rate of shootings is 145 per 100,000 people.

The calculation takes into account the larger city population in 1993.

Still, Baltimore remains as it was then, one of the most violent cities in the country.

The AFT will keep the ballistics van in Baltimore for about a month and will send it to shooting scenes. 

Copyright 2017 WBAL via CNN. All rights reserved. 

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