A cooperative effort of several States established and demonstrated the feasibility of using a computerized system for the interchange of criminal histories. The States' effort was called the System for Electronic Analysis and Retrieval of Criminal Histories (SEARCH).
The SEARCH project began receiving Federal funds in 1969 from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) as part of LEAA‘s effort to encourage States to improve their criminal justice systems. SEARCH was developed on the basis that all computerized criminal history records would be stored in the States and that a central computer would maintain an index of abbreviated summary data on arrested individuals.
On request, a State was furnished this summary — which contained information on the reasons for and number of arrests and convictions — and, if necessary, could query the State listed on the summary as having the individual's records for the detailed information. LEAA gave the States about $4 million to develop and operate SEARCH.
SEARCH proved that it was feasible to use a computerized system for the interchange of criminal histories. The question then facing the Department of Justice was how to make the system operational: Who should operate the system? What computerized criminal history information should be contained at the Federal or at the State level?