Empowering Law Enforcement With Data and Investigative Capabilities

Learn more about tools supported by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators that have significantly benefited law enforcement agencies.

Empowering Law Enforcement With Data and Investigative Capabilities

Note to reader: While much of the content presented in this article is of pertinent interest to The NICB Informer’s law enforcement community readers, for those in the insurance industry, having baseline knowledge of AAMVA and the tools it provides to support law enforcement serves as educational. The faster that law enforcement can recover a vehicle and get it back in the hands of its owner is all time and money saved on the property-casualty end, directly impacting you and your policyholders.

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) is a non-profit organization that plays a crucial role in supporting and facilitating motor vehicle administration and law enforcement agencies across the United States and Canada. Established in 1933, AAMVA's mission is to promote safe and efficient transportation by providing innovative solutions and services. 

This article highlights AAMVA's National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) and the Law Enforcement Access Tool (LEAT), which have significantly enhanced vehicle-related data management and law enforcement investigative capabilities.

I. AAMVA and its Role in Modernizing Vehicle Administration
AAMVA operates as a central hub that connects state and provincial motor vehicle administrations, working collaboratively to improve administrative processes and enhance public safety. By fostering communication and information sharing among member agencies, AAMVA has played a pivotal role in streamlining and standardizing vehicle registration, driver licensing, and identification practices. The organization also provides resources and training to motor vehicle administrators and law enforcement personnel, ensuring consistent and effective implementation of laws and regulations.

II. National Motor Vehicle Title Information System 
The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS) was created following enactment of the Anti-Car Theft Act of 1992. Provided by the Department of Justice (DOJ), but operated by AAMVA, NMVTIS is a database designed to serve as a comprehensive repository of vehicle-related information from across the nation. Its primary objective is to prevent title fraud, curb vehicle theft, and protect consumers from unknowingly purchasing stolen vehicles or those with altered titles.

NMVTIS collects data from various sources, including state jurisdiction titling agencies, data consolidators, salvage yards, and auto recyclers. This wealth of information allows law enforcement agencies, consumers, and other authorized entities to access vital vehicle history data, such as title information, odometer readings, salvage and total loss records, and theft reports. As a result, NMVTIS has significantly bolstered law enforcement's ability to track and recover stolen vehicles, thus mitigating the economic impact of auto theft on the public [and subsequently providing value to NICB members]. Consumer access to NMVTIS information is provided by AAMVA-approved access providers, which can be found by visiting the DOJ website at vehiclehistory.gov.

In 2022, Kansas and the District of Columbia became the most recent addition to the list of jurisdictions participating in NMVTIS. Today, 99% of the total U.S. vehicle registration population is represented in the system.

III. Advantages of NMVTIS for Law Enforcement
Improved Vehicle Recovery and Investigations 

With NMVTIS, law enforcement agencies gain quick and easy access to real-time information about a vehicle's title history and status. This enables them to recover stolen vehicles promptly and aids in investigations, leading to the arrest and prosecution of individuals involved in auto theft and title fraud.

Preventing Title Fraud and Scams 
NMVTIS serves as a valuable tool in detecting and preventing title fraud schemes. By cross-referencing information from different states and jurisdictions, law enforcement can identify discrepancies and patterns indicative of fraudulent activities.

Enhanced Public Safety and Consumer Protection 
By preventing the sale of stolen or unsafe vehicles, NMVTIS contributes to overall public safety. It reduces the chances of unsuspecting consumers purchasing stolen vehicles and helps remove potentially hazardous vehicles from roads.

IV. The NMVTIS Law Enforcement Access Tool 
AAMVA's commitment to supporting law enforcement agencies led to the development of the NMVTIS Law Enforcement Access Tool (LEAT). LEAT is an online platform that grants authorized law enforcement personnel secure access to NMVTIS and to other relevant vehicle data and is available at no cost through the Regional Information Sharing System (RISS). This centralized platform allows officers to conduct searches, retrieve critical information, and perform investigative tasks efficiently.

LEAT gives law enforcement access to information not available through a basic NMVTIS query and streamlines the data retrieval process, enabling officers to access vehicle history, salvage records, and other pertinent details in real time. LEAT's user-friendly interface makes it easier for law enforcement to make informed decisions during traffic stops, investigations, and recovery efforts. 

A LEAT search includes:

  • NMVTIS, Junk, Salvage, and Insurance reports
  • National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) Cloned VIN File
  • Stolen Mexican vehicles (OCRA)
  • National Vehicle Service (NVS) lien, auction, impounds, and export data
  • VIN analyzer 
  • NCIC Stolen Vehicle Theft File (sworn officers only)

By entering a VIN in the NMVTIS LEAT search tool, an officer instantly searches all these databases. Investigators can search one VIN or up to 10,000 VINs at one time using a “bulk search” feature within LEAT. Investigators can also search for vehicle records by title number and search business records for junk and salvage companies.

The LEAT is managed by the U.S. Department of Justice and is continually refined and updated with input from a group of AAMVA members and staff who comprise the AAMVA NMVTIS Law Enforcement Subcommittee. AAMVA divides the United States and Canada into four regions and subcommittee members represent every AAMVA region, along with several Technical Advisors, including NICB Program Director, Vehicle Operations, Richard Spallinger.

V. Benefits of the NMVTIS Law Enforcement Access Tool 
Simplified Data Retrieval 

LEAT consolidates multiple data sources into a single, easy-to-navigate platform. This streamlines the data retrieval process and empowers officers with the information they need at their fingertips.

Increased Efficiency
By saving time on manual searches and paperwork, LEAT enables law enforcement to focus more on operational tasks, invesztigations, and community engagement.

Real-time Collaboration
LEAT facilitates seamless communication and data sharing among different law enforcement agencies. This fosters collaboration and enables officers to work together effectively, particularly during multi-jurisdictional cases.

VI. Ensuring Data Security and Privacy
Placing a strong emphasis on data security and privacy, the U.S. DOJ has implemented stringent protocols to safeguard the information within NMVTIS and LEAT. Access to these systems is strictly controlled, with user authentication and authorization mechanisms in place to ensure only authorized personnel can access sensitive data. This commitment to security ensures that the vast amount of vehicle-related information remains protected from unauthorized access and misuse.

Through initiatives like the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System and its Law Enforcement Access Tool, AAMVA, through NMVTIS, has empowered law enforcement with critical vehicle-related data, leading to improved vehicle recovery, prevention of title fraud, and enhanced public safety. As technology continues to evolve, AAMVA remains committed to innovation and collaboration, striving to create a safer and more efficient transportation system for all. 

Thomas J. Foster is the Law Enforcement Program Manager at the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. He presented on the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System at last year’s NICB Vehicle Fraud & Crime Conference.


Thomas J. Foster is the Law Enforcement Program Manager at the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. He presented on the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System at last year’s NICB Vehicle Fraud & Crime Conference.  


Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800.TEL.NICB (800.835.6422) or submitting a form on our website.

About the National Insurance Crime Bureau: Headquartered in Oak Brook, Ill., the NICB is the nation's leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to combatting and preventing insurance crime through Intelligence, Analytics, and Operations; Education and Crime Prevention; and Strategy, Policy, and Advocacy. The NICB is supported by more than 1,200 property-casualty insurers, self-insureds, rental car, vehicle finance, and auto auctions. To learn more, visit www.nicb.org.