WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) The Wichita Police Department is asking gun owners to save their casings to help reduce firearm-related crimes.
So far this year, there have been 358 violent crimes linked to stolen guns. In 2017, more than 1,100 guns were stolen.
"Operation Save-A-Casing" is a first-of-its-kind program aimed at linking stolen guns to the violent crimes they were used to commit.
"I wish that all citizens that own firearms in Wichita will participate," said Captain Clay German.
He says having those two spent casings separate from a firearm will give police the opportunity to get the firearm back to the proper owner.
Police say gun owners should store two bullet casings and registration information from each of their guns. The casing and information should be stored in a safe place separate from the guns.
If a gun theft occurs, the owner would then give the two firearm casings and registration information to a police officer. The casings and information would then be submitted into the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN), a national database established in 1999 by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
NIBIN contains digital images of spent bullets and cartridge casings found at crime scenes or test-fired from confiscated firearms.
The database looks for possible shell casings matches. If a match occurs, the NIBIN lab then would contact WPD investigators with the findings.
Sedgwick County District Marc Bennett says it will also help with prosecutions, but he says keeping a weapon secured should be a gun owner's first priority.
"I'd also take this opportunity to reiterate the need to take safety precautions in the storing of your firearms in the first place," he said.
On a federal level, guns are destroyed if they cannot be matched with their legal owners. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister says the new program could help with a weapon's return to its rightful owner.
"If we know they belong to an innocent owner and they were stolen, those guns may actually come back to you," said McAllister.
Wichita police say a shot detection system used pinpoint violent crime also has ties to the "Save-A-Casing" program.
"Time of theft, how long is it to the time it was used, and two: it will kind of let us see if our drug networks are tied to our theft networks and to our violent networks. I have a feeling they are all tied together, but this Save a Casing will give us a better idea how it ties together," said Deputy Chief Jose Salcido.
"Save-A-Casing" is funded through a grant called, "Supporting Innovation: Field-Initiated Programs to Improve Officer and Public Safety."
The grant total is $493,594 and was awarded to the WPD by the United States Department of Justice.