|Youth Violence |
Statement of Charles W. Archer, Assistant Director, Criminal Justice Information Services Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Before the Subcommittee on Youth Violence, Committee On the Judiciary, United States Senate, Washington, D.C., March 9, 1998.
Greetings, Mr. Chairman, and members of the Subcommittee on Youth Violence. Thank you for the opportunity to again appear before you and discuss the FBI's role in identifying juveniles and providing information about their criminal histories.
Prior to becoming the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, otherwise known as CJIS, I have been a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for nearly 28 years, and I have witnessed first-hand the rise in violent juvenile crime. The situation was particularly brought into focus for me during my service as the Special Agent in Charge of the Mobile, Alabama, field office, from October 1989 until November 1993. During this period, I oversaw a violent crime and drug task force. I was startled and concerned by the number of youthful offenders who were the subject of our task force efforts.
Here, before you today, I would like to outline some of the criminal justice services the FBI has implemented in support of law enforcement's efforts to thwart violent juvenile crime. I will describe two FBI-maintained Criminal Justice Information Systems and expand on the information pertaining to juveniles retained in each of those systems. The two systems are the National Crime Information Center, known as "NCIC", and the Identification Records System.
NCIC is a computerized database of documented criminal justice information available to law enforcement professionals. Information on wanted or missing persons, deported felons, foreign fugitives, unidentified persons, members of terrorist organizations and gangs, and stolen property is instantaneously accessible through police radios, dispatch personnel, and mobile and stationary computer terminals. NCIC is operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The FBI provides the host-computer system and telecommunication lines to the 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada. These jurisdictions, in turn, operate their own computer systems providing access to local criminal justice agencies and regional networks. Through a cooperative network, more than 87,168 users have direct on-line access to almost 36 million records via NCIC. The information available via NCIC is entered by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies on a voluntary basis. Information is grouped into eighteen separate files that can be queried by law enforcement agencies across the country.
Data stored in the NCIC is documented criminal justice agency information. Access to that data is restricted to duly authorized criminal justice agencies. I should note here that criminal courts, prosecuting attorneys, and probation and parole offices all fall within the definition of criminal justice agencies. All criminal justice agencies having access to NCIC have adopted security measures to prevent unauthorized access to the system's data and/or unauthorized use of data obtained from the system.
Juveniles who have been charged with the commission of a delinquent act which is an act that would be a crime if committed by an adult, and who have fled from the state where the act was committed, may be included in the NCIC Wanted Person File. This inclusion is permitted by an amendment to the Interstate Compact on juveniles known as the "Rendition Amendment." Forty-four states and the District of Columbia have signed the amendment to extradite such juveniles to the state of the crime. There are currently 459,844 records entered in the Wanted Person File. 7,723 or 1.68 percent of these records pertain to persons under the age of 18.
The NCIC Violent Gang and Terrorist Organizations File was implemented on December 1, 1994. This file is designed to provide identifying information about violent criminal gang and terrorist organizations and members of those organizations. This information serves to warn law enforcement officers of the potential danger posed by violent individuals and will promote the exchange of information to facilitate criminal investigations. Use and maintenance of the Violent Gang and Terrorist Organizations File is constrained by specific restrictive criteria and safeguards to ensure that the file includes highly reliable information. Adults as well as juveniles may be the subject of a record contained in this file. Currently the file contains 4,703 records, 846 or 18 percent of which pertain to persons under the age of 18.
I would like to turn now to a discussion of the Identification Records System.
Beginning in 1924, the United States Attorney General was authorized by Congress to begin collecting criminal fingerprint and arrest record information for federal and state arrests. The Attorney General delegated this responsibility to the FBI. At that time, our operations began with 810,000 fingerprint cards. As of the end of January 1998, there were 37,857,111 records on file of individuals who have been arrested and/or convicted of a criminal offense in the United States.
Other than the reporting of arrests for child abuse crimes, which became mandatory with the passage of the National Child Protection Act of 1993, the reporting of an arrest and disposition information by local, state, and other federal agencies to the FBI is voluntary. What is important to remember is that the vast majority of the nation's law enforcement agencies submit arrest and disposition data voluntarily to the FBI because of the mutual benefits they derive.
Typically, when an offender is arrested in the United States, arrest fingerprint cards are completed for the individual to identify the person and to document the criminal offense charged at the time of arrest. Most arresting agencies mail two fingerprint cards to their state identification bureau, which in turn forwards one of the fingerprint cards to the FBI for processing. Recently, large agencies have begun transmitting fingerprints electronically to their state identification bureau and the FBI is now able to accept submissions electronically. These arrest fingerprint cards are the foundation for establishing and updating state and national criminal history records.
The FBI, under statutory authority, may provide criminal history record information stored in the Identification Records System to criminal justice agencies for criminal justice purposes and to non criminal justice agencies for non criminal justice purposes that have been approved by federal executive order, federal law, or state law approved by the United States attorney general. Private third parties are not authorized to have access to the FBI's identification records.
In 1973 the FBI began automating its criminal history records. The arrest and disposition information on the fingerprint cards was entered into the FBI's automated database, and hard copy criminal history records, otherwise known as "rap sheets" were generated from the automated database in response to record requests.
Today criminal justice agencies can obtain "rap sheets" by two means: first, when an agency submits a fingerprint card, if the individual's fingerprints match those of a subject whose criminal fingerprints are included in the Identification Records System, the FBI will mail a hard copy of the subject's "rap sheet" to the contributing agency. Of the 5,850,297 arrest fingerprint cards the FBI received and processed during calendar year 1997, we identified 4,590,664 or 78.5 percent of the subjects as having previous criminal history records and provided the "rap sheets" to the contributing agencies. Secondly, criminal justice agencies can request and receive "rap sheets" electronically over the NCIC network. In 1997, 5,260,271 "rap sheets" were transmitted in response to electronic requests.
I would like now to focus on the scope of the juvenile records maintained in these systems. In 1992, the Department of Justice revised its Federal Regulations (28 CFR § 20.32) to allow the FBI to collect, maintain, and disseminate arrest fingerprint cards for juveniles. Prior to this, the FBI was prohibited from collecting juvenile records with the exception of those cases when a juvenile had been processed as an adult. As of 2/24/98, there were approximately 213,686, or less than one percent, of the 37,857,111 criminal subjects in the Identification Records System who were under the age of 18.
Each state retains the responsibility of determining whether its own laws permit submission to the FBI of records pertaining to juveniles. The FBI provides a "sealing flag" for records of the National Fingerprint File participating states (Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Oregon). The Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), scheduled to be fully operational in July 1999, will extend the sealing capability to all states. Until that capability is available, the FBI maintains and disseminates juvenile records in the same manner as adult records; therefore, states have been advised to submit juvenile records only if unrestricted dissemination is permitted by their law.
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 amended Title 18, United States Code, section 5038 paragraph (f), by including additional situations under which federal agencies must submit juvenile arrest information to the FBI. Prior to the amendment, the U.S. Code had required submission to the FBI of all information concerning federal adjudications relating to a juvenile who had on two separate occasions been adjucated delinquent for committing an act which, if committed by an adult, would have been a felony involving violence or one of several other offenses described in the code. The 1994 Act added that the arrest information pertaining to a juvenile who has been adjucated delinquent for an act committed after his or her 13th birthday, which if committed by an adult would be a crime of violence or a certain crime committed while in possession of a firearm, be submitted to the FBI for retention and dissemination.
As the number of juvenile crimes continues to be a significant problem, I believe that it is imperative that our Criminal Justice Information Systems provide information to the criminal justice community to support officer and citizen safety, investigations, adjudications, sentencing and custody decisions. That is why the FBI CJIS division has been moving forward to develop the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. When fully operational, IAFIS will substantially reduce the time required to process and positively identify subjects based on fingerprint data. Additionally, IAFIS will offer enhanced identification capabilities to law enforcement agencies across the country, as well as the FBI's own latent fingerprint technicians.
In closing, I would like to thank you for inviting me to testify. I would be happy to answer any questions that the Subcommittee might have.