County and local police departments throughout New Jersey are employing technology to track shell casings from firearms in hopes of solving crimes.

Shell casings (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The crime-fighting tool is known as National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, or NIBIN. It's run by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. NIBIN helps law enforcement officials solve crimes by allowing them to follow up on intelligence information from ballistic imaging technology.

"It is a collection of images taken from shell casings that are either recovered at a crime scene or recovered in a test fire of a weapon recovered by law enforcement," said Georg Belsky, special agent in charge of the Newark Division of the ATF.

NIBIN takes very detailed computer images of these shell casings, stores them and then allows technicians to compare casings recovered at one scene with casings recovered at another, basically linking those incidents together via the casings.

The process involves a computer program along with other forms of technology, according to law enforcement officials. A very high-speed camera with a magnifying lens takes a picture and allows the technician to expand the image. That image is then uploaded to a database on a server that links all of these things together.

When police deal with multiple crimes and one gun, Belsky said it's possible for law enforcement to link those incidents together via the casings.

The technology, which has been around since the 1990s, can help law enforcement prevent where the next shooting is going to be, according to Belsky.

Belsky said if there is a shooting and police officers respond to a scene and recover shell casings, those casings have markings on them from the firearm that fired that are specific and unique to that individual gun.

"Just like a fingerprint is special to a person, to an individual person, the marking that a firearm leaves on a casing basically does the same thing," the agent said.

NIBIN is being used in New Jersey at the local, county and state police level. There are six NIBIN machines, one in Bergen, Camden, Somerset, and Union counties. In Essex County there are two machines being used. One is being used by the Essex County Sheriff's Department and the other is being employed by the Newark Police Department.  All are part of the nationwide, integrated network.