N-DEx: Powering Investigation Beyond Your Jurisdiction

April 15, 2015
Originally published in the April 2015 edition of the CJIS Link, Volume 17, Number 1

It’s all too familiar—too many cases and not enough time to follow up. If only there were a way to run all of the entities (i.e., persons, places, things, and events) associated with those cases through a national information sharing system! Now, thanks to the power of the FBI’s National Data Exchange Program (N DEx), law enforcement and criminal justice agencies have a resource at their fingertips to do that and more. (This article provides an overview of N-DEx and how N DEx can help your agency. Future articles will address specific tools and capabilities in more depth.)

Screenshot of top of the National Data Exchange (N-DEx) interface (from CJIS Link article).
Launched by the FBI’s CJIS Division in March 2008, the N-DEx is the nation’s only investigative tool that contains data from local, state, tribal, and federal justice systems. N-DEx provides the ability to share, search, link, and analyze information by removing jurisdictional and geographical limitations. This integration of roughly 243 million records from more than 5,000 criminal justice agencies offers a secure platform through which law enforcement can access case reports, records, and information on nearly 1.7 billion entities in a real-time manner.


N-DEx Basics

Share. N-DEx works closely with law enforcement and criminal justice agencies (CJAs), ranging from local to federal levels, to configure their N-DEx settings providing a secure method for information sharing. Contributing agencies always maintain ownership and have control over what data they share, who can access it, and under what circumstances. Individual users must be part of a contributing agency.

Search. N-DEx gives CJAs, such as police officers, investigators, and correctional officers, the ability to search millions of records from across the entire criminal justice system in seconds. These records include incident and case report information; arrest, booking, and incarceration data; mug shot and booking photos; field contact and interview records; and supervised release, probation, and parole data. With these records, N-DEx provides officers with immediate information on an individual, notifying the officer of any criminal record, association, and past interactions with law enforcement.

Discover. New agencies are joining N-DEx and new data are being submitted to the system daily. The N-DEx subscription feature allows the discovery of new information, leads, and connections between investigations. N-DEx automatically and continuously searches for possible connections between investigations and provides notifications when new information related to an investigation enters the system or when other criminal justice personnel search for the same people, places, things, events, and key words. This powerful capability can greatly aid investigations through continuous data discovery and deconfliction with other investigations.

Link. In addition to helping find suspects and identify victims, the tools and features within N-DEx help uncover connections and relationships between people, locations, and crimes. One such use might help corrections personnel find connections between inmates, visitors, and parolees as they consider an inmate’s classification pending his release. Another tool can help visualize and diagram relationships that not only enhance their investigative information, but also can detect patterns and unknown relationships between those records.

Analyze. Based on details such as an individual’s criminal involvement, a crime’s characteristics, or an event’s time and date of occurrence, the N-DEx’s analytical tools can illustrate investigations, geographically depict crime trends and occurrences, and visualize connections between crimes or events. The value of such connections was demonstrated when the search for a missing person reported in one California county turned up an individual incarcerated in a nearby county, effectively helping to close a case that had been ongoing for 2 years. Filters can further limit searches and pinpoint relevant case information so users can view hot spots and identify areas with the highest crime rates.

Screenshot of interface showing linkages among N-DEx data (from CJIS Link article).

N-Dex shows linkages among data.

A Platform for Collaboration

Users who establish connections between their case and a similar case at another agency can use N-DEx to simply exchange additional case reports or to arrange meetings between the agencies to coordinate investigations. This collaboration tool allows investigators anywhere to connect, share information, and transfer files regardless of their location. Users can also create subscriptions based on their searches so the N-DEx will notify them when other users are searching for information on cases (both ongoing and past) with similarities, identifying new links and relationships.

The Benefits of Using N-DEx

N-DEx is an investigative, operational, and tactical resource that enhances public safety. With access to immediate data, N-DEx offers the entire criminal justice community increased situational awareness and a more in-depth understanding of the people with whom they interact. It also helps agencies track and view crime trends in and around their jurisdictions, allowing them to more efficiently allocate resources and efforts. By creating better communication and collaboration between agencies, N-DEx also magnifies the reach and intensity of investigations beyond jurisdictional borders.

Make the Connection

Obtaining access to N-DEx is simple for criminal justice agencies. Contact the N-DEx Program Office via e-mail at for the details.