National Crime Information Center (NCIC)

The National Crime Information Center, or NCIC, has been called the lifeline of law enforcement. It’s an electronic clearinghouse of crime data available to virtually every criminal justice agency nationwide.

NCIC helps criminal justice professionals:

  • apprehend fugitives,
  • locate missing people,
  • recover stolen property,
  • identify terrorists,
  • and perform other duties more safely.

NCIC was launched on in 1967 with five files and 356,784 records. Now it has more than 12 million active records and averages millions of transactions each day.

Police Officer in Car on Computer (Stock Image)

About NCIC 

The Files: The NCIC database currently consists of 21 files. There are seven property files containing records of stolen articles, boats, guns, license plates, parts, securities, and vehicles. There are 14 persons files, including: Supervised Release; National Sex Offender Registry; Foreign Fugitive; Immigration Violator; Missing Person; Protection Order; Unidentified Person; Protective Interest; Gang; Known or Appropriately Suspected Terrorist; Wanted Person; Identity Theft; Violent Person; and National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Denied Transaction. The system also contains images that can be associated with NCIC records to help agencies identify people and property items. The Interstate Identification Index, which contains automated criminal history record information, is accessible through the same network as NCIC.

How NCIC is Used: Criminal justice agencies enter records into NCIC that are accessible to law enforcement agencies nationwide. For example, a law enforcement officer can search NCIC during a traffic stop to determine if the vehicle in question is stolen or if the driver is wanted by law enforcement. The system responds instantly. However, a positive response from NCIC is not probable cause for an officer to take action. NCIC policy requires the inquiring agency to make contact with the entering agency to verify the information is accurate and up-to-date. Once the record is confirmed, the inquiring agency may take action to arrest a fugitive, return a missing person, charge a subject with violation of a protection order, or recover stolen property.

Cooperation is Key: NCIC has operated under a shared management concept between the FBI and federal, state, local, and tribal criminal justice users since its inception. There are two facets to the shared management concept—policy and functional.

The policy facet provides a means for user input on NCIC policy through the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Advisory Policy Board. The board enables NCIC users to make recommendations to the FBI Director for policy and operational enhancements to the system. The CJIS Division actively promotes the use of the system and its benefits through daily interaction with users—whether by phone, video teleconference, or e-mail; attendance at meetings and seminars; and via the advisory process.

The functional facet provides a means for agencies to access NCIC. The FBI provides a host computer and telecommunication lines to a single point of contact in each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Canada, as well as federal criminal justice agencies. Those jurisdictions, in turn, operate their own computer systems, providing access to nearly all local criminal justice agencies and authorized non-criminal justice agencies nationwide. The entry, modification, and removal of records are the responsibility of the agency that entered them. The CJIS Division serves as the custodian of NCIC records.

Security and Quality Controls: The head of the CJIS Systems Agency—the criminal justice agency that has overall responsibility for the administration and usage of NCIC within a district, state, territory, or federal agency—appoints a CJIS Systems Officer (CSO) from its agency. The CSO is responsible for monitoring system use, enforcing system discipline and security, and assuring that all users follow operating procedures. NCIC policy establishes a number of security measures to ensure the privacy and integrity of the data. The information passing through the network is encrypted to prevent unauthorized access. Each user of the system is authenticated to ensure proper levels of access for every transaction. To further ascertain and verify the accuracy and integrity of the data, each agency must periodically validate its records. Agencies also must undergo periodic audits to ensure data quality and adherence to all security provisions.

NCIC Files 

The NCIC database includes 21 files (seven property files and 14 person files).

  • Article File: Records on stolen articles and lost public safety, homeland security, and critical infrastructure identification.
  • Gun File: Records on stolen, lost, and recovered weapons and weapons used in the commission of crimes that are designated to expel a projectile by air, carbon dioxide, or explosive action.
  • Boat File: Records on stolen boats.
  • Securities File: Records on serially numbered stolen, embezzled, used for ransom, or counterfeit securities.
  • Vehicle File: Records on stolen vehicles, vehicles involved in the commission of crimes, or vehicles that may be seized based on federally issued court order.
  • Vehicle and Boat Parts File: Records on serially numbered stolen vehicle or boat parts.
  • License Plate File: Records on stolen license plates.
  • Missing Persons File: Records on individuals, including children, who have been reported missing to law enforcement and there is a reasonable concern for their safety.
  • Foreign Fugitive File: Records on persons wanted by another country for a crime that would be a felony if it were committed in the United States.
  • Identity Theft File: Records containing descriptive and other information that law enforcement personnel can use to determine if an individual is a victim of identity theft or if the individual might be using a false identity.
  • Immigration Violator File: Records on criminal aliens whom immigration authorities have deported and aliens with outstanding administrative warrants of removal.
  • Protection Order File: Records on individuals against whom protection orders have been issued.
  • Supervised Release File: Records on individuals on probation, parole, or supervised release or released on their own recognizance or during pre-trial sentencing.
  • Unidentified Persons File: Records on unidentified deceased persons, living persons who are unable to verify their identities, unidentified victims of catastrophes, and recovered body parts. The file cross-references unidentified bodies against records in the Missing Persons File.
  • Protective Interest: Records on individuals who might pose a threat to the physical safety of protectees or their immediate families. Expands on the U.S. Secret Service Protective File, originally created in 1983.
  • Gang File: Records on violent gangs and their members.
  • Known or Appropriately Suspected Terrorist File: Records on known or appropriately suspected terrorists in accordance with HSPD-6.
  • Wanted Persons File: Records on individuals (including juveniles who will be tried as adults) for whom a federal warrant or a felony or misdemeanor warrant is outstanding.
  • National Sex Offender Registry File: Records on individuals who are required to register in a jurisdiction’s sex offender registry.
  • National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Denied Transaction File: Records on individuals who have been determined to be “prohibited persons” according to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and were denied as a result of a NICS background check.
  • Violent Person File: Once fully populated with data from our users, this file will contain records of persons with a violent criminal history and persons who have previously threatened law enforcement.

History and Milestones

  • On January 27, 1967, the FBI launched the National Crime Information Center, or NCIC, an electronic clearinghouse of criminal justice information (mug shots, crime records, etc.) that can be tapped into by police officers in squad cars or by police agencies nationwide.
  • In May 1967, the first NCIC “hit” came 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.
  • In 1999, the current generation of NCIC launched, enhancing capabilities of the legacy system and adding important new files.
  • After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, NCIC became a central collection point for information about terror suspects.

NCIC Missing Person and Unidentified Person Statistics 

Archived NCIC Missing Person and Unidentified Person Statistics: