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New initiative hopes to curb illegal guns on Boston streets

“This partnership will bring new resources to bear in the fight against gun trafficking and violence in our communities."

Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff
Boston Police Headquarters. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

In the last three years, non-fatal shootings have risen by 5.25 percent, and single-victim shooting incidents have gone up 11.5 percent, according to authorities.

To combat this, a combination of law enforcement agencies have created the Boston Firearm Intelligence Review and Shooter Targeting (FIRST) Task Force, as announced by Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden on Thursday.

The new initiative is a combination of resources from the district attorney, the U.S. attorney’s office, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Boston police, and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department.

Together, the agencies hope to stop the flow of illegal guns onto Boston streets.

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“The Boston Firearm Intelligence Review Shooting and Trafficking (Boston FIRST) program aims to use state-of-the-art ballistic tracking technology to reduce gun violence by identifying the source of crime guns and the individuals responsible for trafficking them into the City of Boston,” according to the announcement.

Just in the last few weeks, there have been a number of shootings in and around Boston. A man was shot and killed near a Roxbury elementary school during the morning. One person was injured and another killed in Roxbury in the middle of April. Just outside of Boston, a 68-year-old woman was struck by stray gunfire in Chelsea during the day.

The focus is not on a random person caught with a gun. Instead, it looks into how the gun got there in the first place, according to Hayden.

“This partnership will bring new resources to bear in the fight against gun trafficking and violence in our communities,” Hayden said in a statement.  “This program is not focusing on the frightened juvenile caught with a firearm.  Rather, it combines resources to target the individuals who are responsible for flooding our streets with deadly weapons that lead to violence, bloodshed, and terror in our neighborhoods.”

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Two ATF special agents will be assigned to the DA’s Crime Strategies Bureau, according to the statement.

“We’re confident it’s going to make an impact on the guns flowing into Suffolk County,” Hayden said during a Thursday news conference.

Last year, Boston police recovered more than 900 firearms, resulting in 112 leads tied to previous shootings, according to a document provided by the DA’s office. In reviewing the tracing data for those 112 guns using ATF’s National Tracing Center, 76 of those were found to be purchased in Massachusetts, making up 10.5 percent, and 18 other states.

Last year, the Boston police’s Firearms Analysis Unit entered 1,498 photos of cartridge casings into ATF’s National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, including those found from test fires, and from evidence photos. A total of 660 were from test fires. The photo submissions helped garner 464 leads where NIBIN was able to match a firearm to a prior shooting or shootings, the document says. Fifty-two of those were from cross-jurisdictional leads.

The FIRST Task Force anticipates reviewing 800 shootings leading to 100 recovered firearms that are matched in NIBIN to past shootings, which will lead to about 400 leads for investigators to follow up on.

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“​​Each one of our partners brings something to bear in this fight against violent gun crime,” James Ferguson, special agent in charge of ATF said during the news conference.

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