FBI turns on new crime-fighting system

FBI officials announced today that they have successfully rolled out a massive new computer system that state and local law enforcement officials will use to fight crime.

The new system, the National Crime Information Center 2000—like the original NCIC, which the FBI had used since 1967—allows crime fighters to search through 17 databases when investigating crimes or questioning criminal suspects. The databases include information on stolen guns, deported felons, missing persons and stolen vehicles, for example.

NCIC 2000 will allow law enforcement officials with special hardware and software to transmit suspects' fingerprints to confirm their identity and to see if the suspects are wanted for other crimes. It also will allow the officials to view mug shots to confirm identities—a capability the original NCIC did not have.

Law enforcement officers also can use NCIC 2000 to identify relationships among information in the databases. For example, under the old NCIC, if someone stole a car and a gun as part of the same crime and if a law enforcement officer later stopped the car thief on the highway, the officer could use the system to find out easily that the car had been stolen. But he would not necessarily know that the car thief might also have a stolen gun. NCIC 2000 shows the connection, keeping related information on a crime linked together, FBI spokesman Stephen Fischer said.

The new NCIC 2000 also adds name-search functionality. For example, a search for the name "James" would return alternate spellings, such as "Jim" or "Jimmy," Fischer said.

NCIC 2000 went online after years of escalating costs and congressional finger-wagging. System architects originally envisioned NCIC 2000 costing about $80 million, but the final price was $183.2 million, Fischer said. The discrepancy between the original cost and the actual cost came in part because contractors originally were "overly ambitious" when estimating the project, Fischer said.

NCIC 2000 went live on July 11, but bugs in the system, as well as FBI attention on the capture of suspected railroad killer Angel Maturino Resendez, delayed the unveiling of the system, Fischer said. He added that bugs in NCIC 2000 were fixed by Monday evening. The bugs related to connectivity with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is used for approving gun purchases. That system draws on NCIC 2000 and other databases to approve or disapprove gun purchases.

FBI officials will hold the formal ceremony unveiling NCIC 2000 next month in Clarksburg, W.Va.

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