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National News

The 'Old Fake' Cook County Criminal Record Search

March 11, 2020 posted by Steve Brownstein

How Researchers Faked Cook County Results
There was a lot of cheating going on doing Cook County criminal record searches in the early 1990's.
I don't know if this still continues today. I would think not because most Cook County criminal records are now inputted with dates of birth.
And it was the lack of identifiers that led the unsrupulous to cheat.
There was a fellow named Ron, or Juhn, Jose..I care not to repeat his full name. He or she might still be checking names for you at the Cook County Courthouse.
I always remember him working out at the Washington Street,10th Floor, Chicago Municipal Court Records Dept.
Back in the 1990's the names were entered into the Cook County database but if it wasn't a felony or from one of the suburban branches dates of birth were omitted from the data entry.
That meant if you had a name match and there was no DOB showing on the computer index you had to order the file from the clerk and search the folder for a document that would have an identifier - a DOB.
And of course wouldn't it be Chicago cases that didn't have the DOB's entered. The busiest court (at least then) in the USA?
So you would have to make a list of all the files you wanted to search and present it to the clerk, who being a government worker, didn't appreciate that he would now have  (a lot of )work to do. 
If the name wasn't too common usually there would be only a few files to order and everyone was happy.
But get the last name Smith, Brown, Jones, Williams, you know, a very common last name and add a common first name - John, James, Robert, Michael, etc..  the files that needed to browsed through could reach the hundreds.
Plus it was around then that the Clerk's office decided to 'limit' the amount of single name cases that could be ordered at one time - I think it was set at 25.
They could  pull a few each day for you to browse and that was that.
That took care of their 'work overload.' 
But it all added up to a catastrophe of runaway turn around time. 
And  a lot of unhappy pre-employemnt screening company customers who couldn't understand what was taking so long even if you explained it a hundred times.
So I'd see this 'John' (fictional - but the real 'John' he knows who he is) character order a few files on a common name and then that would be it.
He'd clear it out.
And the pre-employment screening services were happy because their turn around time was so good.
But that riled me up. Here we all were competing for business and this yahoo is clearing names without doing the search.
And some of the background check companies would rave about this guy.
I asked him one day why he did that - clear them out?
And he just looked at me and said that the number of misses that he had didn't add up to all the work he had to do to clear a name. If there was a missed record he would just tell the screening company he 'd check the name again and that would be that.
I imagine he lost a few accounts that way. 
But I wasn't imagining it when I recently saw him at the courthouse still checking or clearing names at the Cook County Courthouse.

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