Investigating a Career in Criminal Justice

July 07 2017
Category: Academics

This week’s #SoaringToSuccess story spotlights Alyssa Hollow '18. This human services and criminal justice double major is learning everything it takes to fight crime through her internship at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

Let’s head to Boston and investigate the scene with Alyssa…

Student Alyssa Hollow at her ATF internship

For the past month I have been interning at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), which is a federal law enforcement agency under the Department of Justice. ATF focuses on crime such as the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, acts of arson and bombings, terrorism, and the storage and illegal use of explosives, for example.

Throughout my internship I have been working alongside the special agents in the New England Crime Gun Intelligence Center (CGIC). CGIC is responsible for collecting, managing, and analyzing crime gun evidence in order to identify and apprehend shooters or criminals and prevent future crime. To achieve these goals, this task force, as well as ATF, work in conjunction with various federal, state, and local agencies to effectively share information, resources, and databases.

As an intern with ATF, I have been able to gain a lot of field work and hands on experience. I was able to work with one of our explosives detection dogs, Claude, and be a part of one of his training sessions in order to prepare him for the Sail Boston event, which draws in millions of people to Boston. I also was able to observe the quarterly firearms trainings and certification sessions. Although I was not able to actively participate in the training, I was taught the safety precautions used during these trainings, firearm safety measures in general, and how to load a firearm. During my internship I was also able to sit in and oversee an entire federal trial from start to finish including the jury selection along with the closing of the verdict.

ATF Logo in Boston

I also spent a good part of my time learning the ins and outs of the National Integrated Ballistic Identification Network (NIBIN). This database holds digital images of spent bullets, cartridge cases, and confiscated weapons found at crime scenes and are then test fired. Images from the scene are put into the database as well as the test firings in order to test for possible matches. Each gun manufactured has its own microscopic markings, which are transferred to the bullet or cartridge case (similar to fingerprints), which allows for firearms examiners to make positive identifications. I found working with the NIBIN to be extremely interesting considering I’ve never heard of this database before and it’s relatively new compared to others, so I was able to work on cutting edge technology.

Because of my opportunity to intern at ATF, I am able to see and apply concepts discussed in the classroom, in order to better understand the different aspects of law enforcement. This amazing opportunity allowed me to gain real world experience and advanced knowledge that I could never have learned in a classroom setting. I have gained extraordinary connections with ATF special agents which I feel will benefit me throughout my future career plans and I am forever grateful for the experience.