National DBs

National Criminal Databases and When to Use Them.

Article by Alicia Jones with Dated 04/2005

Instant criminal databases are becoming increasingly popular. Buyers are now more educated on what databases entail and now, more than ever are requesting these searches. It is important for employment screening companies to embrace these searches for what they are… a tool which allows a broader search for criminal records.

National criminal databases are typically comprised of Administrative Office of Courts, county criminal information, sex offender registries, department of corrects records, and in some cases, OFAC, Interpol and Denied Persons Lists.

These databases do not represent all data from all sources, but certainly assist in expanding your search.

Many times employers think there is a magical database out there where one can type in someone’s name and come back with their shoe size. The truth is, there is no search that has everything from everywhere, not even from the FBI. Databases, if updated properly, can be accurate in the information they provide. It must be understood there really is no such thing as a 100% background check, whether you are conducting individual county searches or utilizing a database.

Most true statewide searches do not contain all of the county criminal data. Texas, for example, has 254 counties. It is a state law that all 254 counties report all crimes to the state every 30 days, however, most counties simply do not have the technology or the manpower to make this a reality.

For databases to have the information, it has to be reported. Employment screeners know there is no magical bullet when it comes to background checks. County searches may miss serious offenses outside the specific county searched, state searches may not include all county info, and federal searches are seldom checked.

It is all about educating the client. If screeners let their clients know there is something more they can do to prevent from hiring criminals, and properly represent each search, more is always better. Many employers use national criminal searches as a first line of defense. Most screening companies now offer a progressive screening program which requires each applicant to pass each search, starting with a national criminal database search, before the next search is processed. Starting with a national criminal search, being instant, cost effective and broad, helps cover many different sources at once and even with its holes, brings an added value to county, state, and federal searches.

Mary Hubbell from Liberty Screening agrees, “Eliminating the spend for other screening products such as credit reports, employment verifications and drug screening are a direct result of the usage of this instant search.”

Databases are also a great supplement to a county search. Studies have shown that searching a current county and a national criminal database yield more results than the past 3 counties of a seven year search. This is a great opportunity to upsell your clients. Most database companies will gladly run a batch for your clients to help them see how many hits can be missed.

I recently tried to persuade a client to upgrade from county searches to county and a national criminal search. The client is a major provider of insurance exams and has about 10K employees that go into peoples homes. They did not see how spending more money could be better.

We ran the past three months, over 1400 names, of no record searches through our database. Our national criminal database picked up over 420 hits on 119 people that were outside of the jurisdictions searched. Upon reviewing this data, the client found about 20 employees with violent and sexual offenses.

Just preventing one of these employees from entering a client’s home is worth the cost associated with the national criminal database.

When looking for a database provider, it is important to discover the following things. First, how often are the files being updated? Most reputable database companies update most sources every 30 days. Second, how many sources are included in the database? Only a handful of database companies have over 150 sources and update them regularly. Even if you pay a few dollars more, it is important to make sure you have access to the most data possible.

Lastly, can your database company offer you and your research team support.? With most counties having different formats, statutes and codes, one might need help with the interpretation or lack of a record within a source. Only a few of the major database companies offer telephone and web based support.