CLARKSBURG, W. Va. – As part of the three-day interim session, state legislators with the Joint Committee on Technology traveled to the FBI Center in Harrison County.
Stephen Morris, Assistant Director of the Criminal Justice Information Services Division said he was thankful for the visit so he could provide an update on the work they are doing.
“We have such a great story to tell here that really reflects, I think, so well on the state of West Virginia, particularly on the Clarksburg and Morgantown area,” he said. “I’m thinking there are years and years of more success. I think [it's important] for folks to understand and know the impact this facility has on the community and has on the world.”
One of the things Morris talked about was the improvements made to the various information sharing systems such as the National Instant Background Check System used for gun purchases or the National Data Exchange which contains information on every stage of the criminal justice process.
A system featured during the presentation was the National Crime Information Center, which is used by law enforcement seeking instant information. It was created in 1967 and was next overhauled in 1999. The system contains many records including those related to stolen property, the National Sex Offender Registry and a list of Missing Persons.
The system was again overhauled recently and Morris said they recently set ar record for the number of uses in a single day with the database searched 14 million times, returning results to the law enforcement officers at an average of .018 seconds.
“It’s refreshing because people don’t realize, I don’t believe they realize, that the state of West Virginia, the country and the world are a much safer place because of they business they conduct over there,” Delegate Randy Swartzmiller (D-Hancock, 01) said. “It’s a true blessing that we have them in West Virginia.”
The other main subject Morris discussed was the Division’s work with Biometric Identification, which includes putting together one of the FBI’s longest projects in its history.
The Next Generation Identification program incorporates the research into Biometrics with the goal of reducing terrorist and criminal activities by improving identification methods and criminal history information services.
The one of the most notable changes might be the improvement of the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System service. In 1999, the Division reported accuracy of around 26 percent and would give a list of matches. With improved research and technology as part of the NGI project, the accuracy rate is now between the 70th and 80th percentile, nearly three times more accurate than legacy systems.
The system is such a success, many representatives from foreign countries are making the trip to the mountain state to see for themselves.
“What we learned today, is the FBI continues to evolve in West Virginia,” Swartzmiller said. “They’re not complacent with old software and old ways of doing business. They continue to grow to be a world leader out there.”
Morris also mentioned the impact the facility has on the community.
Most of the workers at the center live in Harrison County where they spend the nearly $236 million distributed in wages, he said. They also reach out to local, small businesses with “Vendor Days” to discover if they have any services to offer and vice versa.
The facility is looking to bring in more people as well. A Biometrics Center is being constructed on the ground in a partnership with the Department of Defense. Morris said once the two organizations have their Biometrics set up in the facility, more agencies and more employees will be brought to the area.
With private companies coming to the area as well working in Biometrics, Morris went as far as to liken the industry’s rising to the tech revolution in Silicon Valley, California.
“They are a tremendous, a phenomenal economic engine to not only the local economy, but to the state of West Virginia,” Swartzmiller said.
The FBI’s CJIS Division facility was constructed in 1991 when 989 acres of land was purchased in Clarksburg.