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Why Fingerprint-Based Background Checks Miss Criminal Records

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With today's popularity of investigative crime shows and podcasts, it seems the public is more informed than ever on the criminal records process. We've been told that searching a database for matching fingerprints is a definitive way to tie someone to a crime. However, there's a lot about fingerprint-only searches that TV shows don't tell you.

Read on to learn how fingerprint-only searches could be putting your youth sports organization at risk.


The top 3 misconceptions about fingerprinting

1) Fingerprints are taken after every crime

False. This one might come as a shock, but it's critically important to know that fingerprints are not taken after every police encounter. There are a number of misdemeanors and offenses where police only issue a citation to appear in court. Because the offender was not jailed, no fingerprints were taken. This is why background checks that conduct their screenings based solely on fingerprint searches can put organizations at risk. Using additional background screening parameters such as social security verification, address trace, and identity verification help to uncover records that could have otherwise been missed.

2) State-specific fingerprint searches will capture all records

False. In our 2016 case study focusing on California organizations to determine the possible dangers of background checks that only search in-state records, NCSI discovered that 15% of criminal records found for California organizations would not have been uncovered using fingerprint searches alone. Why? Fingerprinting record searches like California LiveScan only search for records in the State of California, missing potential crimes and convictions that may have occurred in other states. To see if these results were true of other state-specific fingerprint searches, NCSI also conducted a case study that focused on Illinois and discovered that 21% of applicants would have been missed by an Illinois ISP Fingerprint-only check since they were charged and/or convicted outside the state.

3) Fingerprinting searches provide a full background of potential criminal activity

False. Fingerprinting only gives you part of the story since not all crimes result in the taking of fingerprints.

However, utilizing additional background check parameters and conducting a search based on previous address history would reveal these offenses and case outcomes including charges, court dispositions, and sentencing. This information is all necessary to determine if the individual qualifies to join your staff.

Protect your organization by going beyond fingerprint-only searches

Since fingerprint-only searches are limited by strict guidelines, only specific crimes are reported in California LiveScan searches and Illinois ISP fingerprint checks. Understanding how background checks actually work can go a long way in helping to better protect your organization and participants. 

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