1997 Finalist
US Department of the Treasury
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

In 1993, firearms caused 70 percent of the 29,526 homicides reported in the United States. Furthermore, assailants using a firearm attack 1.3 million people every year. Disarming the Criminal (DTC) is a program operated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) designed to improve law enforcement's ability to control illegally trafficked firearms and thereby reduce firearms violence.

DTC addresses illegal firearms trafficking by striking a balance between the ATF's existing direct investigations, newly developed technologies and unique information resources. These means are used to assist state and local law enforcement in the reduction of arms trafficking. DTC collaborates with the academic community in researching patterns, trends and trafficking indicators. These factors are then programmed into the existing technologies that analyze firearm trace data. With the use of this enhanced technology, all levels of the law enforcement community are able to more effectively work upstream, towards the source of arms trafficking.

DTC's first step was updating the National Tracing Center (NTC), ATF's central collection and processing data center. Once the NTC had been modernized, it incorporated Project Lead, a program capable of analyzing NTC's data to find leads on criminal sources. DTC then gave ATF and other law enforcement agencies access to the Firearms Tracing System (FTS) so that they could both contribute data and take advantage of it.

Contribution to the FTS is not mandatory. In order to encourage grassroots participation in FTS, DTC issues periodical expanded trace result reports. These reports encourage users to understand the worth of the system and therefore contribute to it.

Since DTC's inception in 1994, its specially trained agents have been able to prosecute and incarcerate 2,230 illegal firearms traffickers. Using data provided by the National Institute of Justice, ATF has calculated that the 34,491 firearms seized in these cases have prevented 53,520 future firearms-related crimes. In fiscal terms, the arrests have saved the American public $38,802,000 in crime-related costs. DTC's use of a public-private collaboration has effectively enhanced existing methodologies with state-of-the-art technologies to provide a more thorough and proactive public service.