A look inside Richmond’s Forensic Crime Lab; Over 700 firearms seized this year


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Each year, the Richmond Police Department seizes hundreds of guns. Last year, 728 were taken off the streets. So far this year, police have seized 707 firearms.

These are guns collected from crime scenes or were illegally possessed; meaning they were either stolen or found in the hands of a convicted felon.

Many of those guns ended up at the Richmond Police Department’s Forensic Crime Lab.

“Guns are very popular and they change hands often,” said Forensic Investigator Kendall Barlow.

In the lab, Barlow will process the guns for clues. She said, “I’d say probably 15 to 20 a month that we do.”

The forensic evidence she collects could offer clues to who pulled the trigger and if the gun was used in other crimes.

Barlow’s first step is — “examine the gun.”

She said, “we’ll visually inspect it with our flashlights and see if we see any visible prints.”

She’ll then either dust for fingerprints or use a solution to swab the firearm.

“I am going to swab the grips. I am going to swab the trigger and the slide,” she said demonstrating the process for 8News. She’s hoping to find any traces of DNA on the firearm.

The swabs are then sealed up and sent off to the state lab for analysis. The information could help detectives determine who handled the gun.

“It is very important to link these cases up because it could provide investigative leads to the detective that, may or may not, have any leads to suspect information,” said Barlow.

That same gun in the lab is later fired to collect casings. Images of the ballistic evidence are uploaded into NIBIN, the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network to see if it triggers a match and a link to other crimes.

“We do have hits frequently that are coming through the NIBIN system. These guns show that crime doesn’t stop at the line. A gun that could be fired in Chesterfield could have been used in crime in the City and in Hanover,” explained Barlow.

Barlow has been a forensics investigator with RPD for 21 years and she’s seen a lot. She said, “Definitely more guns, they are out there.”

Homicides are on the rise in the city and the majority have been committed with a firearm. Barlow knows her work in the lab could hold the key to solving a crime or heading off the next one.

“And get the guns off the street and taking them out of the hands of the bad guys,” she said.

According to a recent FBI Uniform Crime Report, 87% of murders statewide were committed with a gun, and in half the robberies in Virginia, a firearm was used to commit the crime.

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