November 19th, 2006 02:32 EST
United States, Canada Sign Agreement To Share Ballistics Data
Washington " An agreement signed November 17 by representatives of the U.S. and Canadian governments will enhance significantly criminal law enforcement cooperation between the two nations, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Canadian Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day signed the memorandum of understanding on ballistics information sharing at the ninth annual United States-Canada Cross-Border Crime Forum, held in Asheville, North Carolina.
The agreement allows for the electronic exchange of ballistics information between the two countries. In the past, there have been limited manual exchanges of ballistics information, but such exchanges were "time-consuming and cumbersome," the Justice Department said in a November 17 press release. With electronic access to ballistic data, both countries will be able to connect firearms and bullets used in crime scenes across North America.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) will be the lead agencies responsible for implementing this important law enforcement agreement, according to the Justice Department.
"This agreement will enhance the ability of our countries to share forensic ballistics information electronically and in real time. It will improve our ability to identify and link crime scene evidence and will advance our joint efforts to fight gun crimes," Gonzales told forum participants at a luncheon prior to the signing.
Saying that the "friendship of the United States and Canada is as healthy as our common border is long," Gonzales praised the "unprecedented levels of cooperation" achieved for the criminal justice systems of both countries and urged expansion of that cooperation.
"Our shared responsibilities in fighting crime are vast, and neither of our countries can do it alone. Organized crime, narcotics, human trafficking, mass-marketing fraud, and border enforcement are just a few of the challenges we face every day," he continued. "But I am optimistic, and I hope that our Canadian allies can look to us in the United States as we look to you: as teammates and as partners in guarding the peace and democracy that we all cherish."
This agreement is the latest in a series of collaborative efforts between the United States and Canada to combat transnational crime. Other such efforts include:
· Establishment of an ATF assistant country attaché in Toronto to work with the Canadian Provincial Weapons Enforcement Unit to trace firearms used in crimes and to combat illegal trafficking in small arms;
· An agreement between the ATF and the RCMP to allow the RCMP to use ATF`s eTrace system to trace firearms recovered at crime scenes in Canada;
· U.S.-Canadian mutual training initiatives such as International Firearms Trafficking Schools and the Serial Number Restoration Training program; and
· Establishment of integrated border enforcement teams, which in the spring resulted a major success " 40 arrests and seizure of nearly 4,000 kilograms of illegal drugs and $1.5 million " against six Canadian organized crime groups.
Gonzales, who attended the Asheville conference along with Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and acting ATF Director Michael Sullivan, noted the significant challenges facing law enforcement agents on both sides of the border and pledged to continue to build on U.S.-Canadian cooperation and "take full advantage of the partnerships formed at gatherings like this one.
The memorandum on ballistics data "is an important step forward and a concrete example of how we are tearing down barriers to law enforcement, and constantly strengthening our international partnerships," he told reporters after signing the agreement.
The full text of the Justice press release and the full text of Gonzales` prepared remarks are available on the Justice Department Web site.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)