BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — As police departments across the nation fight a rising number of gun crimes, Raleigh and Mercer counties are among those most affected in southern West Virginia, federal officials said Tuesday, May 30, 2023 during a visit to Beckley.

United States Attorney Will Thompson of the Southern District of West Virginia and officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area showcased a mobile ballistics testing unit of the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, or NIBIN, at the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department.

NIBIN is the only national database that tracks guns used in crimes, according to a press release from Thompson’s office. The network helps police departments link guns to perpetrators of gun violence.

“We want to focus on those individuals that pull the trigger, that hurt the community,” said Special Agent Shawn Morrow with the ATF. “The sheriff here has been a leader in the community. Him and his investigators, and his detectives, are making sure the firearms taken into custody in their law enforcement investigations are fully analyzed so those harming the community can be held accountable.”

Raleigh County Sheriff’s officers and NIBIN lab experts demonstrated how the mobile unit works. Bullets are analyzed, giving ballistics experts a gun’s unique marking. The markings are entered into a national database where bullets collected at other crime scenes may be traced to the same weapon, giving law enforcement a better idea of where drug and illegal gun traffickers operate.

Federal officials encourage local police departments to utilize the free service.

“The more folks that take advantage of this, the more information we have to put in the NIBIN system, the more beneficial it is to everyone who uses it,” said Raleigh County Sheriff James Canaday.