BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
Home  |  National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP)

On this page:
Program Summary | Program Impact & Accomplishments | State-by-State Summary |
National Initiatives | Related sites

Program Summary

In this section:
Program objectives | Program components | Uses of criminal records |
Integrated record systems | Funding history

Program Objectives

To ensure that accurate records are available for use in law enforcement, including sex offender registry requirements, and to protect public safety and national security.

To permit States to identify -

  • ineligible firearm purchasers
  • persons ineligible to hold positions involving children, the elderly, or the disabled
  • persons subject to protection orders or wanted, arrested, or convicted of stalking and/or domestic violence
  • persons ineligible to be employed or hold licenses for specified positions
  • persons potentially presenting threats to public safety

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Program components

BJS provides -

Direct funding to the States to improve the quality, timeliness and immediate accessibility of criminal history and related records (see Funding history).

Technical assistance to the States through an ongoing program incorporating surveys, evaluations, national forums for considering privacy issues and strategies, and direct guidance to States (see National Initiatives).

This assistance is designed to promote participation in and improve the interface between States and the national records systems including:

  • the FBI administered National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)
  • National Protection Order File
  • National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR)
  • the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS)

    (See Glossary of terms for definitions.)

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Uses of criminal records

Criminal history records describe an arrest and all subsequent actions concerning each criminal event that are positively identifiable to an individual.

Accurate, timely and complete criminal history records -

  • enable States to immediately identify persons who are prohibited from firearm purchase or are ineligible to hold positions of responsibility involving children, the elderly, or the disabled.
  • enable criminal justice agencies to make decisions on pretrial release, career criminal charging, determinate sentencing, and correctional assignments.
  • are critical to assist law enforcement in criminal investigations and decision making.
  • are required for background checks for national security, employment, licensing and related economic purposes, as required under recent legislation.

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Integrated record systems

Complete records require that data from all components of the criminal justice system, including law enforcement, prosecutors, courts and corrections, be integrated and linked. NCHIP assists States to establish the integrated infrastructure which meets the needs of all components.

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Funding history

The NCHIP program was initiated in 1995 and awards are made annually to each applicant State and eligible territory. A Program Announcement is issued annually which describes program goals, program priorities, application procedures and allowable costs.

Program priorities in FY 2009 are:

  • Updating and automating case outcomes from courts and prosecutors in State records and the FBI's Criminal History file.
  • Full participation in the Interstate Identification Index (III).
  • Automating access to information concerning persons prohibited from possessing or receiving a firearm, including persons who: have been adjudicated as a mental defective or have been committed to a mental institution; are unlawful users of or addicted to any controlled substance; are the subject of protection or restraining orders; and/or have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.
  • Transmitting relevant State records to: (1) files in the NICS Index particularly including the Denied Persons file; (2) the NCIC's Protection Order file; and/or (3) the NCIC's National Sex Offender Registry file.

NCHIP awards are made to the agency designated by the Governor to administer the program. (See NCHIP agency addresses.) Funds distribution is based upon need rather than population or other formula-based methodology.

Total expenditures to date between FY 1995 - FY 2007, were approximately $515 million. All States and eligible territories have received funds under the program. (See State-by-State funding summary.)

Starting with FY 2000, NCHIP has been funded under the Crime Identification Technology Act of 1998, P.L.105-251 (CITA) and the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 P.L. 106-386, 114 Stat 1464.

In addition to State awards, funds are also allocated for National Initiatives (technical assistance, privacy, national conferences and workshops, surveys, evaluations, intergovernmental coordination, and review of presale firearm inquiries and rejections).

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Program Impact & Accomplishments

See also, Improving Criminal History Records for Background Checks

  • Improved records: From the inception of NCHIP in 1995 to 2003, the number of criminal history records held nationwide grew 43% while the number of automated records increased 57%. Over the same period, the number of records available for sharing under the FBI's Interstate Identification Index (III) climbed 83%.

  • III Participation: Since 1993, the number of States participating in III grew from 26 to 48 and the District of Columbia.

  • National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS): The NICS is now supporting over 8 million checks annually at the presale stage of firearms purchases. The NICS infrastructure, developed through NCHIP funding, seamlessly transitioned from Brady-based of Chief Law Enforcement Officers (CLEO) - conducted checks to the current system of Point of Contact (POC)/NICS and NICS only checks.

  • Domestic Violence and Protection Orders: States have used NCHIP funds to initiate the flagging of criminal history records evidencing convictions for domestic violence or the issuance of a protection order. As of April 2008, there are 47 States, District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands submitting data to the National Protection Order File which became operational in May 1997.

  • Convicted Sexual Offender Registries: NCHIP funds have assisted States in building sex offender registries and participating in the FBI's National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR) which became operational in July 1999. As of April 2008, 50 States, Guam, the Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia have provided more than 520,000 records to the NSOR.

See also, Individual State Accomplishments

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State-by-State summary

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NCHIP National Initiatives

In this section:
Technical Assistance | Privacy | National Conferences and Workshops | Surveys | Evaluation | Records Quality Index | Firearm Inquiry Statistics (FIST) Project | Intergovernmental Coordination

Technical Assistance: The NCHIP Technical Assistance (TA) program directly assists States to implement programs, policies, and technologies to upgrade criminal records and improve interface with the FBI's national systems. TA is provided through onsite visits, web training, telephone, training classes, and workshops and conferences (See below). Since inception, the technical assistance program has been managed under a grant from BJS.

Onsite TA visits are coordinated with the FBI to facilitate participation in FBI programs such as the Interstate Identification Index (III). Requests for assistance must be originated by the NCHIP grantee agency, although the assistance may be provided to any agency designated by the grant recipient.

Privacy: Advances in technological development have raised new questions about Legal Policies and Disclaimers relevant to criminal record systems. To meet these needs, BJS has for over 20 years supported a privacy program under an award to SEARCH, The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics. The goal of the NCHIP privacy program is to identify and analyze the privacy impact of changes in the systems environment, to provide a forum for the discussion of these issues, and to develop standards which may be applicable to the collection, maintenance and dissemination of criminal record data.

Under it's Millennium Privacy Project, BJS supported -

National Conferences and Workshops: NCHIP supports conferences and workshops on a regional and national basis to provide information to practitioners and policy makers, to permit exchange of information among representatives of varying agencies across the 50 States, to respond to needs of grantees receiving NCHIP funds, and to coordinate with other units of State and federal government which are involved in record improvement activities and the operation of the national record systems.

Criminal History Operations Workshop - The first in a series of workshops co-sponsored by BJS and SEARCH. Attendees shared information on a variety of topics, including compiling and disseminating criminal history records, disposition reporting, fingerprint issues, the role and responsibilities of repositories, and data quality issues.

Protection Order/Domestic Violence Information Workshop - This second in the series of workshops was organized to help States improve their ability to collect, utilize, and exchange protection order and related domestic violence information.

Sex Offender Registry Workshop - This third in a series of workshops co-sponsored by BJS and SEARCH was designed to allow State representatives to come together to discuss issues, problems and successes in establishing federally-mandated State sex offender registries.

National Conference on Privacy, Technology & Criminal Justice Information - The National Conference capped a two-year "Millennium Privacy Project" undertaken by BJS and SEARCH. The conference featured the report of the National Task Force on Privacy, Technology and Criminal Justice Information, including findings and recommendations for managing criminal justice information in the new technological environment. A public opinion survey of public attitudes toward privacy issues was also presented and released at the conference.

Beyond the Technology: The Law & Policy Implications of Increased Biometric Use, held November 2002 and co-sponsored by BJS and SEARCH, examined the law and policy ramifications of biometric counter-terrorism solutions.


Surveys: NCHIP funds regular surveys to determine levels of record improvement, public attitudes on privacy and related issues, State responses to current issues and firearm procedures. Surveys are conducted under grants to SEARCH and REJIS and are released as part of the BJS publication series.

  • Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems
  • Survey of Public Attitudes on Uses of Criminal History Records
  • Survey of State Procedures Related to Firearm Sales
  • Compendium of State Privacy and Security Statutes

    For more information about these surveys and the statistics they collect,
    see Criminal Records Systems Statistics.

Firearm Inquiry Statistics (FIST) Project: The Firearm Inquiry Statistics (FIST) project was established in 1995 to collect and publish annual data on presale firearm inquiries required to be conducted pursuant to the Brady Act. The project collects data on the number of inquiries processed by States in connection with presale firearm checks and the number and basis for rejection of such applications. Data is also collected describing procedures followed by each of the 50 States in connection with firearm checks. The project findings are released in BJS Bulletins, Statistical Tables, and the report Survey of State Procedures Relating to Firearm Sales. The project is conducted under a grant to the Regional Justice Information System (REJIS).

Intergovernmental Coordination: Background checks require that information be available on an interstate basis coordinated though the FBI's national systems. BJS works with the FBI and the Department of Justice Office of Legal Policy to ensure that NCHIP programs support the needs of the national systems. Complete records also require that data be obtained from all components of the criminal justice system within each State. NCHIP coordinates with the other Office of Justice Programs (OJP) initiatives designed to support record development and systems integration in order to ensure that all expenditures under NCHIP are consistent with OJP programs. Recipients of funds under NCHIP assure that systems developed with NCHIP funds are compatible with standards and procedures governing national systems (III, NICS, Protection Order File) and with State and local integration programs designed to ensure record compatibility. Funds are also available to implement State plans for system integration.

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Related sites

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