How Law Enforcement Tracks ‘Guns’ in Hampton Roads

Law enforcement is feeling the impact of gun violence in Hampton Roads. Federal partners help track weapons involved in crime scenes.

NORFOLK, Va. — Violent crime in Hampton Roads is on the rise. The number of investigations into the shootings is forcing local and federal agencies to band together to get criminals and guns off the streets.

The names and memorials of victims who died due to gun violence are spread across Hampton Roads. Now families come through and remember it every day.

“Since he passed away, I’ve been walking out the front door and the sun is here,” Calvin Harris said.

Harris said his brother, Devon Malik Harris, 25, was still with him. Malik was shot and killed on Granby Street, along with Virginian-Pilot reporter Sierra Jenkins and Marquel Andrews. The shooting was all over spilled glass, police said.

Harris said her sadness turned to frustration.

“And really it’s not mourning, it’s anger. I’m angry,” Harris said.

Norfolk police believe they have caught the man who shot them, but Harris still questions the motive for the shooting.

“Was it worth it? Was what you did worth it?” He asked.

Another question comes to mind: where do the weapons come from?

“Typically, many towns in Hampton Roads have some of the highest numbers of traced firearms in the state of Virginia, in particular,” said Jason Kusheba of the Bureau of Alcohol’s Norfolk branch, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

ATF officers work with Hampton Roads police officers to resolve cases. The bureau uses several programs to track weapons involved in crimes or known as “crime guns”.

The first system used by the local department is called the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network or NIBIN. The network provides accurate automated ballistic images.

The other is the Electronic Tracing System or eTrace. The online system allows law enforcement to submit firearms traces.

In 2020, ATF data shows that every town in Hampton Roads ranks top for the number of guns recovered. Kusheba leads the ATF task force in Norfolk. He said the agency’s work is not slowing down.

“It means law enforcement is doing their job. They come into contact with the possession of criminal weapons, collect them and remove them from the streets. This is a good thing, but it could also be a sign of an increase in the number of guns on the streets,” Kusheba said.

In Virginia Beach, Police Chief Paul Neudigate said many guns were stolen.

“A large percentage of handguns that are stolen from vehicles, stolen from residences…you know, we’re talking straw purchases and that’s definitely something we pay attention to,” Neudigate said.

Harris knows justice will come but closure is a long time coming.

“Justice will not bring my brother back. It just puts another black man in jail for something stupid he did. When will Virginia put something in place to save the children? It starts when they’re young,” Harris said.

He said his call for peace and the names of the many victims will live on.

An ATF spokesperson said less than two years ago the bureau added an office on the Peninsula to address violent crime, which greatly assists overall operations and crime solving in Hampton Roads.

13News Now wanted to know about the number of firearms seized by local police in Hampton Roads.

A Newport News Police Department spokesperson said it has seized more than 1,159 weapons since 2021.

Suffolk police have taken 359 firearms as of 2021 and only 195 of those guns have been reported stolen.

Other police departments and divisions in the city are still working to get us those numbers.

About Michael C. Lovelace

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