WASHINGTON — U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Canadian Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day today signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at the ninth annual United States-Canada Cross-Border Crime Forum. The agreement allows for the electronic exchange of ballistics information between the two countries.
Prior to the agreement, there was a limited manual exchange of ballistics information, which was time-consuming and cumbersome. Now, through electronic access, both countries will be able to connect firearms and bullets used in one or more crime scenes across North America. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) will be the lead agencies responsible for implementing this important law enforcement agreement.
"This agreement paves the way for greater law enforcement collaboration between the United States and Canada," said Attorney General Gonzales. "It will aid criminal investigations involving firearms on both sides of the border and will help ensure the safety of citizens of both nations."
"Criminals are not afraid of crossing the border and committing more crimes using the same illegal weapons," said Minister Day. "With today's agreement, our law enforcement agencies will be able to solve more crimes by connecting firearms and bullets used in one or more crime scenes across North America."
This agreement is one instance of a long track record of collaboration between the United States and Canada, including the establishment of the ATF Office of Assistant Country Attaché in Toronto, mutual assistance with firearms tracing, and joint training initiatives.
The United States and Canada have consistently engaged in collaborative efforts to effectively share intelligence and information in an effort to stem the illegal flow of U.S.-sourced firearms to Canada. The two nations have instituted the following measures to help fight transnational crime:
*Sharing Forensic Firearms Data – The MOU signed today by Attorney General Gonzales and Minister Day enhances the ability of the ATF and the RCMP to share forensic ballistics information electronically and in real time through the Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS). IBIS allows law enforcement officials to collect and search images of bullets and cartridge cases recovered from crime scenes and from the test fires of firearms seized by law enforcement officers. Previously, this information could only be shared by the two countries on a case-by-case basis. This agreement will help connect the two systems and will save law enforcement officers time and effort, allowing them to spend more time solving crimes and less time filling out paperwork.
*Assistant Country Attaché – In an effort to properly address the issue of illegal U.S.-sourced firearms in Canada, ATF has expanded its presence in Canada and in August, 2005, assigned an Assistant Country Attaché to focus on the Greater Toronto area’s rise in firearms related violence. ATF works closely with the Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit (PWEU) to support its mandate of tracing firearms used in crimes. ATF facilitates collateral investigations and coordinates efforts in the U.S. to investigate, arrest, and prosecute individuals who traffic firearms illegally into Canada.
*Comprehensive Gun Analysis and Tracing – In the fall of 2005, in the wake of an increase in gun violence in the Toronto area, ATF and the RCMP signed an agreement that allows RCMP to use ATF’s eTrace system to electronically trace firearms recovered at crime scenes in Canada. Systematic tracing of firearms assists with interdiction efforts of those firearms originating in the U.S. and allows for the identification of sources of such firearms. Canada’s Firearms Tracing and Enforcement Program, which is a PWEU initiative, has been providing analysis on guns sourced to the United States for the past several years. The RCMP’s National Tracing Unit and PWEU are successfully using ATF’s e-Trace to submit requests to ATF’s National Tracing Center Division.
*Joint Collaboration with Initiatives – ATF is currently working with the Crime Gun Analysis Team in Toronto on firearms-related investigations, coordinating any assistance requested by the Ontario PWEU under this new initiative, assisting with firearms tracing, and any collateral investigations requested from ATF in the United States. ATF also coordinates mutual training initiatives with Canadian law enforcement, such as International Firearms Trafficking Schools and the Serial Number Restoration Training.