NCIC Record: 5.6 Million Queries in a Single Day
Crime Index Sets Record
5.6 Million Queries in a Single Day
|NCIC performs 4.8 million transactions
daily, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
When a New York City police officer on patrol in 1967 radioed a request to the FBI’s new National Crime Information Center (NCIC) to run the plates of a suspicious parked car, he learned in 90 seconds that the car had been stolen in Boston a month earlier. By any measure of the day, the transaction-the first to NCIC-was speedy, considering it had to search 95,000 records in 15 state and city computers linked to the FBI.
Today, more than 94,000 law enforcement agency computers in the U.S. and Canada are linked to NCIC, a massive index of criminal justice information that processes about 4.8 million transactions every day, 24 hours a day, each in a fraction of a second. Last month, on January 6 alone, a record 5,623,838 transactions were processed.
The figure represents a new high-water mark for one of the FBI’s most direct day-to-day contributions to criminal justice agencies. Every time a police officer runs a license plate on a traffic stop, for example, the information is compared against property files (boats, guns, license plates, securities, vehicles) and 11 separate person files that include sex offenders, fugitives, protection orders, missing or wanted persons, terrorists, and gang members. If the information is flagged, officers know who they are dealing with before even approaching a car at a traffic stop.
“This has a direct impact on officers’ safety on the street,” said Assistant Director Thomas E. Bush III, of the CJIS Division. “It’s a pretty large responsibility-it has to be accurate and it has to be timely.”
NCIC is housed at the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division facility in Clarksburg, West Virginia, which is also home to the FBI’s fingerprint database and the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for potential gun buyers.
Here’s how the NCIC works: the FBI provides a host-computer and telecommunication network linking to other federal agencies and local jurisdictions. Those jurisdictions, in turn, operate their own computer systems and plug in the crime information, providing NCIC access to virtually all local criminal justice agencies in the U.S.
Use of the NCIC index has grown at a steady clip since its inception 39 years ago. Its first year saw 2 million transactions. Last year, NCIC processed over 1.6 billion transactions, an 18% increase over 2004. Since 2002, the average number of daily transactions has grown from about 2.4 million to 4.8 million, while the turn-around time has shrunk to a mere .06 seconds.
A major technological upgrade in 1999 led to the near-instant results on queries. In 2003, the index was modified to include files in the FBI’s new Terrorist Screening Center. On any given day, 700,000 law enforcement officers have access to NCIC; one in three transactions is performed by a component of the Department of Homeland Security.
“Post-9/11, it has become even more critical to get information to the officers on the street,” Assistant Director Bush said.
Photo courtesy of Public Roads, January/February 2003, Department of Transportation.