Thousands of guns recovered by CPD still waiting to be tested, according to police records

CHICAGO (CBS) – For months, the Chicago Police Department has been touting the record number of guns that police have taken off the streets.

But with a massive influx of firearms recovered, is ballistics testing able to keep up?

CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey is digging into records that show thousands of guns still waiting to be tested.

“Every illegal gun recovered is a potential life saved.”

Superintendent David Brown takes every opportunity he can to plug his department’s success on the gun recovery front.

“There have been 3,682 guns recovered, 1762 people have been arrested in possession of those guns,” he said. “In 2021, officers recovered 12,000 guns — more than New York and L.A. combined.”

More than 15,000 guns have been recovered since the beginning of 2021 through the end of last month, according to data obtained by the CBS2 Investigators.

In June of last year, a gun was recovered at a fatal South Loop shooting in broad daylight.

A gun was also recovered in a robbery and carjacking on the city’s Northwest Side in November.

Days later, a gun was recovered from a carjacking in Wicker Park that led to a police chase on the expressway.

But according to police records — none of those guns have been tested yet.

As of April 28 — there were more than 5,000 untested guns. More than 33 percent of all guns recovered since the beginning of last year.

“So there may be a backlog because of the volume to maybe have a backlog because the resources have not kept pace with a number of guns confiscated.”

Loyola University’s Dr. Arthur Lurigio says it’s possible CPD may need to scale up testing operations.

CPD said given the volume of firearms they’re recovering, the Forensic Services Division is working to process all firearms recovered. Processing a firearm can be lengthy, given they are subject to multiple tests, and it’s something that requires attention to detail.

There are also situations such as serial number restoration, in which serial numbers have been defaced on a recovered gun and must be restored to ensure proper tracing of the gun. This can help determine whether a recovered gun is also linked to other cases.  

Other components in processing a firearm, like the analysis of recovered shell casings linked to a recovered weapon, can also require additional time. 

Guns involved in legal proceedings get expedited processing. Guns connected to violent crimes are also prioritized.

We checked, and since 2021, 122 guns connected to carjackings were recovered. 29 of those are untested — or about 23 percent.

Lurigio argues that getting guns off the street is important, but testing goes even farther when it comes to holding people accountable. 

“This kind of evidence is essential, at all stages of the criminal justice process,” Lurigio said.

These tests include but are not limited to, a safety test, weight test, trigger pull test, drop test, functionality test, and test firing. Many of these guns are also subject to latent print and DNA processing.  

When it comes to prioritizing, we should also note that in the 73 assaults, or batteries involving police officers since the beginning of 2021 — only two guns haven’t been tested yet.

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