INDIANAPOLIS – Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Columbus Field Division, Roland Herndon Jr., started his new job just five days ago. He’s stepping into the role as Indianapolis sees a record number of homicides this year, and ATF is taking a hard look at those trends.
As of July 30, 109 people were murdered in the Circle City. That is 34 more than the same time period last year.
“We have to try to do our best to deter that gun from getting in the individual’s hands before that happens,” Herndon said.
Agents are using tools to identify the most violent offenders committing crimes using firearms in the city. One of those tools is called NIBIN, or the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network. It is the only interstate automated ballistic imaging network in operation in the United States. Today ATF has the capability to share ballistics intelligence across the country.
“I am a firm believer that we have to have a balance as we do this,” said Herndon. “As we move more into firearms enforcement and prosecution and arrest, we also must balance it out and work with our community partners to make sure community needs are being met.”
ATF and U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler met with the City of Peace Coalition recently. That group is made up of seasoned crime reduction and prevention leaders including pastors, retired officers, and city leaders. They discussed crime guns in the city and their connection to homicides in Indianapolis.
According to Minkler, 70 percent of gun murders in this city are committed by suspects who have no legal right to possess a gun.
“We are looking to see how that legal commodity, which a firearm is a legal commodity, how it was diverted into the illegal marketplace,” said Herndon.
As the Director of Community Violence Reduction in the City of Indianapolis, Shonna Majors knows firsthand the impact of crime guns on families. She said she has heard kids as young as 12-years-old getting their hands on a gun.
“They get them from friends and family members. They can buy them easily. It is easily accessible on the streets to buy a firearm,” she said. “Pressure from other kids or other young people, especially, and they feel they have to carry those firearms and it is kind of a mentality of kill or be killed out here.”
As ATF watches the crime levels increase, Herndon said they have to make sure they are focused and bring in more resources into the area to help investigators out and learn how firearms are getting into the person’s hands.
In 2019, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department set up a Crime Gun Intelligence Center with the goal of improving public safety. It includes officers with IMPD, ATF and more. Their goal is to use ballistic evidence to target serial offenders before they commit violent crimes.
“We work for the grandmothers, the mothers, the fathers of the community but sometimes those individuals know information we do not know,” said Herndon. “We need someone to call us and give us information to guide us on how we fight violent crime.”