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National Criminal History Improvement Program
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Program Goals and Objectives | Past  Program Announcements | Program Accomplishments | State-by-State Information | Special Projects | Grants-related Publication & Products

Through the National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP), BJS provides direct awards and technical assistance to states and localities to improve the quality, timeliness, and immediate accessibility of criminal history records and related information. 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 that meets the needs of all components.

NCHIP Program Goals and 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

NCHIP Program Components

BJS provides—

  • direct funding to states to improve the quality, timeliness, and immediate accessibility of criminal history and related records (see Funding history)
  • technical assistance to states through an ongoing program that incorporates surveys, evaluations, and national forums for considering privacy issues and strategies, and direct guidance to states (see National Initiatives)
  • assistance 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 Terms and Definitions for more information.)

Past Program Announcements

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. 

NCHIP announcements:

2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008| 2007| 2006| | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997

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

Total expenditures to date between FY 1995 and FY 2013 were approximately $571 million. All states and eligible territories have received funds under the program. For more information please see the state-by-state information.  

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

Program Impact & Accomplishments

3-bar chart

* Interstate Identification Index (III), FBI data through December 2012.
Source: SEARCH Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 2012.

  • III Participation: Since 1993, the number of states participating in III grew from 26 to all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
  • National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS): The NICS is now supporting more than 14 million checks annually at the presale stage of firearms purchases. The NICS infrastructure, developed through NCHIP funding, seamlessly transitioned from Brady-based 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 November 2013, there are 50 states, District of Columbia, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands submitting over 1.5 million records 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 November 2013, 50 states, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia have provided over 723,000 records to the NSOR.

State-by-State Information

Please visit the following pages to learn more about BJS criminal record improvement activities in the states and territories.

NCHIP Funding for 1995-2014

Summary of 2014 Awarded Activities

NCHIP Contacts

Special Projects and Initiatives

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, workshops, and conferences (see below). Since its 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.


Advances in technological development have raised new questions about privacy policy 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 system's environment, to provide a forum for the discussion of these issues, and to develop standards that may be applicable to the collection, maintenance, and dissemination of criminal record data.

Under its 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 that 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 abilities to collect, use, 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 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, this conference examined the law and policy ramifications of biometric counter-terrorism solutions.


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.


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.

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 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, and the NCIC 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.

Grants-related Publications and Products

These reports are available in PDF format:

Data Collections & Surveys

Publications & Products

Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 2012 - Statistical Tables Describes background checks for firearm transfers conducted in 2012. These statistical tables provide the estimated number of firearm applications and denials since the inception of the Brady Act in 1994 through 2012.
  PDF (1.2M) | ASCII file (23K) | Comma-delimited format (csv) (Zip format 63K)
Part of the Background Checks for Firearm Transfers Series

Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 2010 - Statistical Tables Describes background checks for firearm transfers conducted in 2010. These statistical tables provide the estimated number of firearm applications and denials since the inception of the Brady Act in 1994 through 2010.
  PDF (763K) | ASCII file (32k) | Comma-delimited format (CSV) (Zip format 17k)
Part of the Background Checks for Firearm Transfers Series

Improving Criminal History Records in Indian Country, 2004-2006 Describes the achievements of the Tribal Criminal History Records Improvement Program (T-CHRIP) which provides grants to federally recognized tribes to improve data sharing across tribal, state and national criminal records systems.
  PDF (321K) | ASCII file (12K) | Spreadsheet (Zip format 6K)

National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP), Awards "Justice awards $11 million to enhance State criminal justice records"
  Press Release

Improving Criminal History Records for Background Checks, 2005 Describes the achievements of the National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP), its authorizing legislation, and program history.
  PDF (257K) | ASCII file (26K) | Spreadsheet (Zip format 34K)

National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP) Awards "Department of Justice awards $26 million to enhance State criminal justice records "
  Press Release

Reporting by Prosecutors' Offices to Repositories of Criminal History Records Examines the reporting of case dispositions by State court prosecutors to State criminal history repositories.
  PDF (140K) | ASCII file (11K) | Spreadsheet (Zip format 2K)

National Criminal History Improvement Program, 2004 "Department of Justice announces $31 million to enhance state criminal justice records."
  Press Release

Improving Criminal History Records for Background Checks: National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP) A preliminary report to the Attorney General on the improved disposition coverage for background checks per directive of July 28, 2001.
  PDF (178K) | ASCII file (30K)

National Criminal History Improvement Program "Department of Justice awards over $36 million to improve criminal background check systems"
  Press Release

Terms & Definitions

Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) An automated system for searching fingerprint files and transmitting fingerprint images. AFIS computer equipment can scan fingerprint impressions (or utilize electronically transmitted fingerprint images) and automatically extract and digitize ridge details and other identifying characteristics in sufficient detail to enable the computer's searching and matching components to distinguish a single fingerprint from thousands or even millions of fingerprints previously scanned and stored in digital form in the computer's memory. The process eliminates the manual searching of fingerprint files and increases the speed and accuracy of ten-print processing (arrest fingerprint cards and noncriminal justice applicant fingerprint cards). AFIS equipment also can be used to identify individuals from "latent" (crime scene) fingerprints, with even fragmentary prints of single fingers in some cases. Digital fingerprint images generated by AFIS equipment can be transmitted electronically to remote sites, eliminating the necessity of mailing fingerprint cards and providing remote access to AFIS fingerprint files.
Central Repository The database (or the agency housing the database) that maintains criminal history records on all State offenders. Records include fingerprint files and files containing identification segments and notations of arrests and dispositions. The central repository is generally responsible for State-level identification of arrestees, and commonly serves as the central control terminal for contact with FBI record systems. Inquiries from local agencies for a national record check (for criminal justice or firearm check purposes) are routed to the FBI via the central repository. Although usually housed in the Department of Public Safety, the central repository may be maintained in some States by the State Police or some other State agency.
Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) or Criminal History Record Information System A record (or the system maintaining such records) that includes individual identifiers and describes an individual's arrests and subsequent dispositions. Criminal history records do not include intelligence or investigative data or sociological data such as drug use history. CHRI systems usually include information on juveniles if they are tried as adults in criminal courts. Most, however, do not include data describing involvement of an individual in the juvenile justice system. All data in CHRI systems are usually backed by fingerprints of the record subjects to provide positive identification. State legislation varies concerning disclosure of criminal history records for noncriminal justice purposes.
Criminal Justice Information Services Advisory Policy Board (APB) Successor to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) APB, the CJIS APB is comprised of 30 criminal justice officials who provide policy input to guide the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the administration of its CJIS Division. The CJIS Division administers the NCIC, the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), and other information system programs determined by the FBI director to have some relationship with these programs.
Data Quality The extent to which criminal history records are complete, accurate and timely. In addition, accessibility sometimes is considered a data quality factor. The key concern in data quality is the completeness of records and the extent to which records include dispositions as well as arrest and charge information. Other concerns include the timeliness of data reporting to State and Federal repositories, the timeliness of data entry by the repositories, the readability of criminal history records and the ability to have access to the records when necessary.
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