A new national ballistics database is to be established in Birmingham as part of the battle against gun crime.
The National Ballistics Intelligence Programme aims to provide police officers with a comprehensive source of information on gun crime intelligence in England and Wales.
Under the programme, three "hubs" will be established in London, Manchester and Birmingham to collect evidence from gun crime scenes and analyse it quickly. Officials involved with the project yesterday refused to reveal the precise location of the new purpose-built facility in Birmingham city centre.
However, it will not be open until the final phase of the NBIP is rolled out in March 2008. Launching the scheme yesterday following a day-long conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Birmingham, the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said at present investigators could only access data from 40 per cent of crimes involving firearms.
Assistant Chief Constable Nick Tofiluk, from West Midlands Police, said increasing that figure to 100 per cent by April 2008 was a "realistic target".
ACC Tofiluk said the new centres would see a team of specialist officers being recruited.
He said: "At each hub we will recruit a specialist forensic manager and a number of specially trained officers. It will be a lean and mean operation."
Mr Tofiluk added that the forensic hubs will also improve the quality of forensic evidence the police are able to gather.
He said: "We will have the opportunity to collect ballistic material, fingerprint and DNA from all at the same time, instead of them having to go from lab to lab."
Dr Bob Golding, programme manager of the NBIP, and a former ACC at Warwickshire Police Force, said the database would be a boost for officers investigating gun crime.
It will release evidence that was previously held up by forensic teams collating information for future trials, he said. "It will enormously speed up the amount of information available to investigating officers.
"Offenders and offences are very clearly linked to the gun and if you can find these links early on it will help tremendously.
"Because it will provide investigating officers comprehensive intelligence and information on cases within 24-48 hours rather than a matter of weeks, it will enable them to make some critical early judgments to get offenders off the streets at an early stage.
"They will get potential leads within 24 hours."
Work has already begun on the three hubs. State-of-the-art equipment has been shipped from Canada for use by the Metropolitan Police, and Acpo expect the Manchester hub to have systems running by the end of the year."
Birmingham will be the last hub to open, as it will be sited in a brand new building in the city centre. Acpo anticipate the programme will be fully operational by April 2008.
The Chief Constable of Warwickshire Keith Bristow, who led the conference, denied the strategy was being launched as a response to recent high-profile shootings.