ATF looks to consolidate data to aid investigations

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sees an opportunity to tap data analytics to address rising gun store robberies.

big data (GarryKillian/

In the coming fiscal year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives plans to expand its data analytics to improve its investigative capacity, including the ability to respond to rising gun store robberies and burglaries, according to the agency's CIO.

"We have really just started pushing data analytics within ATF," said Roger Beasley, the agency's CIO. In the coming fiscal year, Beasley said the agency will move to unify its many data pools, with the goal of giving its agents a more granular picture of the data housed in its systems.

"We have many systems across the bureau, like any other federal agency. They are individual pots of gold if you can pull it all together and begin to mine that information. Up until this point, we really did not exploit that," he said in remarks during an Oct. 8 AFFIRM online cybersecurity event.

Gun store robberies and burglaries, said Beasley, are a good example of where data analytics can help ATF agents in real time. The agency has documented that gun store break-ins have been growing at an alarming rate for years, with hundreds of stores hit every year.

ATF, said Beasley, sees an opportunity for data analytics to help gun store operators to fend off those crimes.

The agency is combining criminal enforcement data on break-ins and linking it to geographic data on gun store locations to build targeted alerts to other gun stores in areas where break-ins occur.

"We're pulling that information from a criminal enforcement database and using ESRI data to grab and pull those local stores within a 50 mile radius of where that burglary occurred and try to alert them ahead of time, so they can be prepared," he said. "It's typically not just one store that's going to get hit in an area."