Public Info

Union County Public Safety’s Leica FSC Microscope Links Crimes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania

Union County Freeholder Chairman Bruce H. Bergen and Freeholders Bette Jane Kowalski and Vernell Wright listen to Union County Police Lt. Mike Sandford speak about the new ballistic comparison microscope recently acquired by the agency at the Union County Police Ballistic Laboratory in Westfield.

The Union County Police Firearms ID Unit has provided countless investigative leads to law enforcement over the years including a case in which the subject of three homicides and one aggravated assault in Elizabeth was linked to three other shooting incidents in Pennsylvania in June of 2015.

In Elizabeth, Union County Police investigated the crime scenes and proceeded to put the evidence into the forensic technology called The Integrated Ballistic Identification System (IBIS). IBIS is a nationwide computer network operated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATFE) that contains an electronic database of test shots from submitted firearms and crime scene evidence. IBIS is often used to find similarities between cases to help generate suspect leads for investigators.

In the Elizabeth case, once the evidence was compared, the Union County Police Firearms ID Unit was able to determine that the same gun that killed three people and wounded another in Elizabeth were related. After further investigation, the UCPD determined that the gun man fled to Eastern Pennsylvania and participated in several more shooting incidents. Using the IBIS forensics system to compare evidence, the PA Police Department discovered a potential match between the two series of events and arrested a suspect. The PA Police Dept. matched the gun to the crimes in PA, which matched the same gun to the crime scenes in Elizabeth. The Leica FSC Microscope played a significant role in assisting investigators in tying seven major incidents throughout Elizabeth and Eastern PA to one suspect and one gun.

The Leica FSC Microscope is two microscopes connected through one optical bridge so the operator can view two pieces of evidence on separate stages through one binocular so they can compare the images side by side under the same lighting conditions, magnifications and focal depth. It’s used to compare evidence to evidence as well as evidence to test shots. The object of the microscope is to determine if there is evidence to link crimes together.

The Union County Police Department purchased the first Leica FSC Microscope in 2005 which is now in need of repair. The repair would cost $10,000 but with the purchase of the new microscope at the cost of $65,000, the company will repair the old one for no extra charge.

“Before 2005, there would be a delay while investigators waited for the results from an out-of-county lab,” said Freeholder Chairman Bruce Bergen, “Now with our fully equipped lab, we can provide timely information to our local investigators, and to jurisdictions throughout New Jersey and the nation.”

The Leica FSC Microscope is an essential tool to help provide leads to investigators in solving gun crimes and can provide intelligence that enables law enforcement to focus its resources to help prevent the next shooting.