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PROTECTING AMERICAN STREETS:
Law Enforcement Information Sharing is Key!

01/07/04

Criminal Justice Information Services LogoThis is not a new concept. In fact, using technology to facilitate information sharing among federal, state, and local agencies isn't a new concept either. Thirty-six years ago this month, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) became operational -- a comprehensive pool of criminal data that could be accessed through wired computers by law enforcement agencies across the country...and eventually from patrol cars and by mobile officers, too, so that a police officer could stop a speeder, find out if he or she was also wanted in another state for murder, and make an arrest on the spot.

How'd NCIC come about? Teamwork. Working with the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the FBI created an advisory group of state and local police to develop nationwide standards...and consulted with the Commerce Department to build an effective telecommunications system.

By January 1967, the system was up and running on 15 state and city computers that were tied into the FBI's central computer in Washington, DC -- which at that time contained 95,000 records on things like stolen autos, stolen license plates, stolen/missing guns, and wanted persons/fugitives. That year, NCIC processed 2 million transactions.

Almost as exciting as Edison and the first telephone. It was May 1967 when a New York City police officer, suspicious of a parked car, radioed in a request for an NCIC search of the license plate. Within 90 seconds, he was informed that the car had been stolen a month earlier in Boston. His reaction? We got a report that the patrolman exclaimed, "It works! It works!"

What's NCIC look like today? Huge. It contains over 52 MILLION records and is connected in a cooperative network to over 94,000 law enforcement agency computers in the U.S. and Canada. It now includes information in a number of different areas: property of course (things like stolen vehicles... but also stolen securities); persons (including those who have been convicted of a crime, foreign fugitives from Canadian and INTERPOL files, immigration violators, missing persons, wanted persons, and violent gang/terrorist organization members); and automated criminal history record information in the Interstate Identification Index.

What's the most information that's been shared on any given day? On December 23, 2003, NCIC processed 4,712,643 transactions... with an average response time of .1119 second. Imagine how many times that day a criminal was taken off the street, a person recovered property that had been stolen, a terrorist was stopped from entering the country, an abducted child was found, an innocent person drove away. That's the thing about NCIC: it's all about protecting American streets by sharing criminal information with law enforcement partners.


Related Link: To learn more, visit NCIC