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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Magical Criminal Justice Systems and Databases

Happy Writer Wednesday!

One of my biggest pet peeves when reading is when an author creates some "magical system" that tells a police officer everything there is to know about a person. Having spent most of my life in the Criminal Justice field as a student and then as a professional, I can't express enough how completely unrealistic and inaccurate this is!

Each state has a system like the Arkansas Crime Information Center. This is a central system where things like criminal history, driver's license information, and vehicle information is stored.

The National Crime Information Center is, for lack of a better way to explain it, the national equivalent of this. NCIC stores thing like stolen vehicle information that law enforcement agencies enter, missing person entries, etc.

Each individual state's system and NCIC are interconnected, meaning you can access information in one state from another state. Using these systems, you can find out if someone has a protection order, a DL out of another state, a criminal history, and other limited information. BUT these systems DO NOT contain every piece of information available on a person. Your credit score isn't in there. Your last fifteen addresses aren't in there. It doesn't tell anyone where you work or what you do for a living.

Each law enforcement agency then has their own systems. These can contain things like your address, your phone number, your known associates, any "street" names you use, etc. They can also contain things like some medical history (if you've ever had to call an ambulance or if you've requested certain information be added), where you work, previous addresses, or if you own Mama's Grocery down on 12th Street.

It takes a lot of work to weed through information to find what you need simply because there are so many different places you have to look, and none of them are completely interconnected. Officers and dispatchers spend a LOT of time piecing together information when they need to find something. It can be an exhaustive, time consuming process.

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