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History of the Maine State Bureau of Identification

Four diligent ladies of the earliest SBI manually sorting criminal history records in filing cabinets.

In an effort to combat the 32% increase in crime in Maine between 1935 and 1936, legislation was passed in 1937 mandating that fingerprints and photographs be taken of any suspicious persons, fugitives from justice, habitual criminals, unidentified deceased persons, and individuals charged with the commission of a crime. The State Bureau of Identification was created as part of this legislation to collect, file, preserve and distribute criminal records. In addition, the Bureau would offer instruction to all local officials required by law to take fingerprints and photographs.

From its creation onward, SBI has played a pivotal role in the criminal justice process as a centralized source of information. Yet, up until October 2002, all of SBI's files were done on pen and paper and kept in cabinets. Even though all that information was technically available, it could take months (sometimes more than a year!) to fulfill a request for that information. After seventeen years of planning and preparation, an automated system was put in place as part of a statewide integrated justice system. The benefits have been endless: timely responses to requests, increased quality and sharing of information, and better protection for the public.