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06Apr2016

Trends from the Biennial State Criminal History Information Systems Surveys

By Becki Goggins
Editor’s Note:

Learn more about the biennial national survey of state criminal history information systems, conducted by SEARCH and published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice

See our blog announcing the release of the 2014 survey

Download this blogpost

In anticipation of the release of the 2014 results of the Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, SEARCH compiled information from previous biennial surveys to see how state criminal history repository operations have changed over time.

Staff will be doing more of this type of time-series analysis in the future, but we thought it would be timely to share some preliminary findings with the SEARCH Membership, other stakeholders, and the public. Following is a brief summary of some of the items we have been tracking over time.

Beginning in 1992, the State Criminal History Information System Survey requested states to provide the number of automated versus manual subjects in the state repositories. From 1992 to 2014, the percent of automated records increased from 77 to 95%.

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There was a major overhaul of the survey in 2006, and we modified a number of questions in the survey instrument and also added new questions. Following is a summary of the more recent trends in repository operations. 

Fingerprint-based Background Checks

  • From 2006 to 2014, the number of annual fingerprint-based background checks conducted by state criminal history repositories increased from 19.8 million to 23.9 million.
  • In 2006, 61% of fingerprint-based checks were for criminal justice purposes and 39% were for noncriminal justice purposes.
  • In 2014, 49% of fingerprint-based checks were for criminal justice purposes and 51% were for noncriminal justice purposes.

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Noncriminal Justice Background Checks

  • From 2006 to 2014, the number of annual noncriminal justice name-based background checks conducted by state criminal history repositories increased from 15.5 million to 19.5 million.
  • During the same time period, the number of annual noncriminal justice fingerprint-based background checks conducted by state criminal history repositories increased from 7.7 million to 12.2 million.
  • From 2006 to 2014, the overall percentage of fingerprint-based v. name-based checks for noncriminal justice purposes rose from 33 to 38%.

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BeckiGogginsAbout the Author

Ms. Becki Goggins is Director of Law and Policy at SEARCH. She oversees SEARCH’s consulting practice in the areas of criminal history records, development of laws and policies concerning the use of justice information and protection of privacy, implementation of evidence-based practices, and the use of technology to improve justice information sharing. Learn more about SEARCH’s work with noncriminal justice background checks and the NICS.

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