Our broader mission at BIB is to help businesses and communities protect their members and organizations from unnecessary risks, and we believe educating customers about industry best practices is important to that effort. With that being said, here's what you need to know about National Database searches:
The Truth About "National" Databases
One of the most important parts of understanding search methodology is understanding that a "nationwide" database of criminal records does not exist. Not every background check is created equal, and if you are just using a database, it is extremely unreliable and risky.
While most organizations now understand the importance of screening their workforce, many do not fully understand the nuances in data quality present within the employment screening industry. Currently, there are no clear standards or mandates for data quality or jurisdiction-specific research methodologies within government or our industry. Because of this, background screening companies sometimes use substandard data sources in order to reduce their costs in an effort to compete on price. Of course, with this, customers unknowingly increase their liability by not receiving critical information that could have otherwise been reasonably made available. Businesses are consuming this product and operating under a false sense of security.
The Facts About "National" Databases
A complete nationwide database does not exist in the U.S. because criminal public record information is highly complex and not consistent from state to state. There are about 3,243 counties in the U.S. and around 5,400 courts, each with its own way of maintaining records.
- Significantly less than 100% of U.S. courts are contained in a nationwide database.
- Some counties do not report to any state or national repositories.
- Database searches often return large numbers of records when using common names, resulting in false positives, which can be a liability for organizations.
A commercially available National Criminal Database should never be used alone or as the primary method of discovering records. Even if the vendor tells you they are verifying the data at the county. They are still only verifying the data they found in the database. The database itself is like a wireless provider coverage map that has holes in it everywhere. There are over 3,243 counties in the country and over 5,400 courts, and these databases include less than half of them.
Many of the best background screening companies have taken the high road, such as BIB, and only deploy these database products as supplements to a quality search. At BIB, we have developed an expert understanding of how organizations can best utilize public criminal records for optimal volunteer and pre-employment screening practices. An organization’s maximum due diligence begins with their reasonable understanding of what records are available, where the official records are maintained, and the appropriate search methodologies that should be carefully followed within each respective state to secure those records.