By: Swapna Tarafdar

MUSCAT: ROP’s Directorate General of Criminal Inquiries and Investigation has begun working on a ballistic fingerprint recognition database that it says will give criminal investigation an edge.

The directorate is creating the database using the internationally recognised Integrated Ballistic Identification System (IBIS). ‘Fingerprints’ of all guns issued to Omani firearm licensees are being fed into the system through which investigators of criminal cases in which firearms have been used can easily sift through multiple crime scenes at the same time.

“We are creating a database of fingerprints of firearms issued to nationals. Every fingerprint is being entered into the state-of-the-art IBIS system,” Dr Wafaa Salim al Harrasy, director of forensic laboratory, Directorate General of Criminal Inquiries and Investigation, said.

Ballistic fingerprints are marks left on the bullet tip after it has been fired and those made on its cartridge by a gun’s firing pins.

Like each individual has a distinct DNA, every gun leaves a unique mark. “For example, no two 7mm guns will have the same fingerprint. As DNA profiling of humans is used to individualise them, the fingerprint mark of every firearm is used for the same purpose,” she said.

Explaining the fingerprinting process, Dr Wafaa said, “Ammunition has two parts – the bullet and the cartridge. When the trigger is pulled, the firing pin strikes the rear of the cartridge, which ignites the gunpowder and bullet. This process pushes the bullet, separating it from the cartridge. Every firearm leaves unique identifying marks on the bullet and the cartridge during the process. These marks are known as firearm fingerprints.”

Every applicant’s background is checked before he is issued a firearm licence. “After purchase, the weapon comes to us and we fire a bullet at our purposely-built firing facility.

“We then store the images of bullets, empty cartridge and marks from every firearm in the IBIS database. We issue a number that is stamped on the gun, empty cartridge and the bullet,” Dr Wafaa said.

She said the IBIS machine creates three-dimensional, high-definition images of the unique markings left on the casings by firing pins.

“The IBIS assists in the search and helps identify the accused by sifting through multiple crime scenes simultaneously,” the director of forensic laboratory said.