Advantages and Disastrous Disadvantages of Instant Criminal Databases

[Phone rings]
Ann: “Cutting Edge, this is Ann.”
Prospective Customer: “We ran an Instant Criminal search and Suzy came back clear. Then she was denied a realtor’s license, they said she had a criminal conviction. What gives?”
Ann: “What jurisdiction?”
Prospective Customer: “San Diego.”
Ann: Puts head on desk. The desk is nice and cool.

Oi. San Diego. Lovely place to visit. Horrendous place to run criminals. Well, I’m sure there are worse, I just happen to have a couple clients in San Diego.

Pay attention. This is a good lesson no matter where you are searching.

San Diego is always a hands-on clerk search. It’s a big Metropolitan area with a seriously understaffed criminal clerk office and no computers or automation. Searchers go to the window, the clerk will process five names, and the searcher goes to the back of the TWO-HOUR LINE.

So, no instant criminal database will turn up anything in San Diego. There are no databases to mine or scrape. It’s all hands on.

Additional problems with this search? Our criminal applicant Suzy (importing cocaine from Mexico to the US) was charged in the federal courts. No data scraping or mining at the federal level.

One more goody? Her last name was hyphenated.

This is where the rubber meets the road.

My poor, prospective client learned with a jolt that the entire staff in his San Diego office might be criminals. He was running an instant criminal database that cleared them all because you can’t mine data in San Diego.

His current background screening firm didn’t tell him that an Instant Criminal search is really just a tool that belongs in a larger arsenal of county searches, or that crimes might occur in the federal courts, as well.

All my prospect knew was that it was really, really cheap. And really, really fast.

So, today, his criminal searches are a little more expensive, and take a little more time. But he knows he doesn’t have an office full of violent criminals or drug dealers. His managers in San Diego complain, because things used to be fast and cheap, and they worry about losing candidates.

Better to lose a candidate than risk appearing in the headlines: REMODELING FIRM NAMED AS DEFENDANT IN WRONGFUL DEATH SUIT. Or face a jury.

Do you wonder if your background checks are doing what you think they are? Call us at 833-424-3247 to discuss which options are best for you and your company.

Check out the next installment of the Background Chronicles when we discuss the necessity of fairness and consistency in background screening.