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DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE AWARDS OVER $36 MILLION TO IMPROVE CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECK SYSTEMS

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Department of Justice announced today that it is awarding over $36 million to the 50 states, District of Columbia, and three territories to improve the quality and accessibility of the nation�s criminal history record systems. States can use the funds for a variety of purposes, including to strengthen their criminal records systems to support the nation�s efforts to reduce crime and fight terrorism.

Funding, which is provided under the Department�s National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP), is administered by the Office of Justice Programs� (OJP) Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). The goal of NCHIP is to improve the nation�s public safety by enhancing and upgrading the nation�s criminal history records, which are used for background checks for firearms purchases, criminal sentencing, and for employment in sensitive jobs . Since the program was initiated in 1995, the Justice Department has awarded nearly $391 million to the states and territories, which has led to a 23 percent increase in the number of criminal history records held nationwide and a 40 percent increase in the number of automated records available to law enforcement.

"Accurate, comprehensive records, which can be shared across law enforcement agencies and jurisdictions, are a cornerstone of our nation�s law enforcement efforts. This funding will permit the continued development of the criminal records infrastructure, which is being increasingly relied upon to provide a foundation for addressing public safety concerns ranging from domestic violence to anti-terrorism," said Assistant Attorney General Deborah J. Daniels.

Complete, accurate and immediately accessible records enable states to identify individuals with prior criminal records in any state; identify individuals who have a history of domestic violence or stalking; more effectively prevent felons and other prohibited persons from purchasing a firearm; and check backgrounds of persons responsible for child, elder and disabled care, and prospective employees in occupations involving transportation safety or other sensitive jobs.

The awards announced today will allow states to continue to automate their criminal records systems, as well as support partnerships among federal, state and local law enforcement and government agencies to share more complete criminal background data. The funding will encourage more complete participation in national programs maintained by the FBI to maintain registries of sex offenders and databases designed to keep track of protection orders. Every state and territory that applied for Fiscal Year 2002 NCHIP funds received an award (See chart for a state-by-state breakdown of funds).

NCHIP awards are made to states agencies designated by the governor. All 50 states, the District of Columbia and the territories, including Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa, have received NCHIP grants and technical assistance since 1995. A list of projects undertaken by states with previous NCHIP awards is contained on the OJP Website:

http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov//index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=4.

Applicants must meet a 10 percent match requirement in order to receive NCHIP funds.

Additional information about BJS, NCHIP or other OJP programs can be found on the OJP Website at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/. Media calls should be directed to David Hess in OJP�s Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at hessd@ojp.usdoj.gov or 202-307-0703.

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After hours contact: David Hess at 888/763-8943 (pager)

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NCHIP FY 2002 Awards and Contacts

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