NCIC TURNS 40
Technology Saving Lives
|Launched on January 27, 1967, NCIC is an electronic clearinghouse of criminal justice information. The system is available around the clock, every day of year, handling an average of 5.5 million queries daily, with responses in fractions of a second.
If you’ve ever watched one of those
crime dramas on TV and heard the term “NCIC” mentioned
in passing and wondered what it was, you’re
probably not alone.
NCIC, which stands for National Crime Information
Center, is one of the unsung heroes of crime-fighting—little
known to the public, but used every day by
law enforcement officers nationwide and even
across the border to take terrorists and
criminals off the street, find missing persons
and property, and save lives.
Launched on January 27, 1967—making
it 40 on Saturday—NCIC is an electronic
clearinghouse of criminal justice information
that can be tapped into by a police officer
in a squad car and by any of the 90,000 agencies
now connected to the massive computerized
database. We run the “host computer” at
our Criminal Justice Information Services
or CJIS facility in West Virginia, and its
information is updated daily by agencies
in all 50 states, D.C., the Virgin Islands,
Guam, and Canada.
Here are just some of the records
NCIC stores and searches: names
(including variations), fingerprints, mugshots,
crime records, and parole and probation
information…on terrorists, national
and international fugitives, convicted
sex offenders, prisoners, missing and unidentified
persons, violent gang members, immigration
violators, etc. NCIC also has seven categories
of stolen property listings and photos.
The system is available around the clock,
every day of year—handling an average
of 5.5 million queries daily, with responses
in fractions of a second.
No wonder Thomas E. Bush, III, our top CJIS
executive, said, “It would be hard
to find a more reliable, widely used, and
important law enforcement tool than NCIC
over the last 40 years.”
Just one example of how it works
in real life: recently, a police
department in Arkansas entered an arrest
warrant into NCIC for a bank robber wanted
on capital murder charges, only to discover
that another department in California had
just requested information on that individual
after detaining him for unusual behavior
in a local business. Turns out, this cross-checking
led to the capture of the fugitive.
“We’re very proud of NCIC’s
legacy, but what’s most important to
us is what it can do today,” says Bush. “We’re
constantly trying to make it better and faster.” And
we have, with a major technical upgrade in
1999 and important additions of terrorism
and gang information in recent years.
As you might suspect with a system
that’s used just about every minute of
every day, there’s plenty more to the
NCIC story. And you can find it here,