Did you know The Profiler at the FBI is actually a computer robot ruled based expert system programmed to profile serial crimes? 

TV show Criminal Minds

When researching the FBI for my character Johnny Gaston, (a FBI profiler ) I came across a lot of conflicting information about the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit.  First, the BAU has been called by several names. Second, it isn’t like anything television portrays it as.  Which is one of the reasons I wanted to make this blog, to set things straight.

FBI Academy.

FBI Academy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


NCAVC– (National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crimes) is located at Federal Bureau of Investigation, Training Division FBI Academy at Behavioral Analysis Unit in Quantico, Virginia. NCAVC is the brains of the BAU.

Agents assigned to NCAVC do the following; coördinate investigative and operational support functions, criminological research, and training to give assistance to federal, state, local, and foreign law enforcement agencies investigating unusual or repetitive violent crimes (serial crimes).

The NCAVC also provides investigative support through expertise and consultation in non-violent matters such as national security, corruption, and white-collar crime investigations.

Every one of the FBI’s fifty-six field offices has at least one NCAVC Coordinator in residence. The coordinators are the primary liaison with the field offices and with local and state law enforcement. They’re working with local authorities every day, so they’re in a position to know when there’s something that would benefit from us looking at it. The coordinators are FBI’s front line.

Typical cases for which NCAVC services are requested include- child abduction or mysterious disappearance of children, serial murders, single homicides, serial rapes, extortions, threats, kidnappings, product tampering, arson’s and bombings, weapons of mass destruction, public corruption, and domestic and international terrorism.

Research and training programs support the operational services of the NCAVC. Requests for NCAVC services are typically facilitated through NCAVC coordinators assigned to each FBI field office. Special agents collaborate with BAU on research and training matters, but they’re involved in training, primarily at the National Academy, and are not operationally involved in cases. Yep, sorry to burst your bubble, but contrary to what the Television portrays, these guy’s are analysts and researchers.

The FBI's Behavioral Science Unit
includes Robert Ressler and Ray Hazelwood
Picture courtesy of cja.mansfield.edu

The NCAVC currently consists of four units: 

Behavioral Analysis Unit 1 (counterterrorism/threat assessment)

Behavioral Analysis Unit 2 (crimes against adults)

Behavioral Analysis Unit 3 (crimes against children)

Behavioral Analysis Unit 4 (Violent Criminal Apprehension Program-ViCAP)

Special Agents Training in Behavioral Analysis Units

  • Basic psychology
  • Criminal psychology
  • Forensic science
  • Body recovery
  • Criminal Investigative Analysis
  • Death investigation
  • Threat assessment
  • Statement/document analysis
  • Crimes against children
  • Child abduction and homicide
  • Sexual victimization of children / Internet issues
  • Interview and interrogation procedures
  • Serial murder

The training is a 16-week program.

Names Previously Used by the BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit)

BSU– (Behavioral Science Unit)-Started in 1974, to investigate serial rape and homicide cases, Serial Crimes Unit -Behavioral Science Investigative Support Unit -Critical Incident Response Group- Investigative Support Unit- Child Abduction/ Serial Killer Unit- Profiling and Behavioral Assessment Unit- Behavioral Analysis Unit East and Behavioral Analysis Unit West- Child Abduction and Serial Murder Investigative Resource Center (CASMIRC).


The Profiler– is actually a computer robot rule- based expert system programmed  to profile serial crimes.

 CIAP– (Criminal Investigative Analysis Program) is a computer program designed to investigate serial crime.

VICAP – (Violent Criminal Apprehension Program) a computer program that identifies and links the signature aspects in violent serial crimes. Pierce Brooks was responsible for its creation. Brooks was a detective from Los Angeles came across a case he knew the killer had to have killed before. He spent years researching other cities for similar crimes. He pushed to get a centralized database.

CIRG– (Critical Incident Response Group) – consists of a cadre of special agents and professional support personnel who provide expertise in crisis management, tactical operations, crisis negotiations, hostage rescue, hazardous devices mitigation, critical incident intelligence, and surveillance and aviation. CIRG will deploy investigative specialists to respond to terrorist activities, hostage takings, child abductions, and other high-risk repetitive violent crimes. Other major incidents include prison riots, bombings, air and train crashes, and natural disasters.

LEO– (Law Enforcement Online) – LEO is a secure, Internet-based communications portal for law enforcement, first responders, criminal justice professionals, and anti-terrorism and intelligence agencies around the globe. LEO catalyzes and strengthens collaboration and information sharing by providing access to sensitive but unclassified information and various state-of-the-art communications services and tools. It is available to vetted users anywhere in the world around the clock and is offered free of charge to members.

LEO started in 1995 as a small dial-up service with just 20 members. Now, it has more than 100,000 members across the world and a host of features and capabilities offered through a Virtual Private Network on the Internet.

What does LEO offer specifically? Here’s a rundown:

  • A national alert system directing members to the LEO site for information on emergencies (like the London bombings, for example)
  • Some 1,100 Special Interest Groups (SIG) that allows members who share expertise or interests to connect with each other, including sections on terrorism, street gangs, and bombs.
  • Access to important and useful databases, like those run by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
  • E-mail services, which enable members to submit fingerprints to the FBI for processing by our Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System.
  • A Virtual Command Center (VCC)—an information sharing and crisis management tool that allows the law enforcement community to use LEO at local and remote sites as an electronic command center to submit and view information and intelligence.
  • Distance learning, with several online learning modules on topics like terrorism response, forensic anthropology, and leadership.
  • A multimedia library of publications, documents, studies, research, technical bulletins, and other reports of interest to LEO users.

*I should note that LEO could also mean Law Enforcement Officer to other Law Enforcement Agencies.

IAFIS– (The Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System) – is a national automated fingerprint identification and criminal history system maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. IAFIS provides automated fingerprint search capabilities, latent searching capability, electronic image storage, and electronic exchange of fingerprints and responses. IAFIS is the largest biometric database in the world, housing the fingerprints and criminal histories of 70 million subjects in the criminal master file, 31 million civil prints and fingerprints from 73,000 known and suspected terrorists processed by the U.S. or by international law enforcement agencies.

NGI – (Next Generation Identification) is a project of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The project’s goal is to expand the capabilities of the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which is currently used by law enforcement to identify subjects by their fingerprints and look up their criminal history. The NGI system will be a more modular system (allowing easy expansibility). It will also have more advanced lookup capabilities, incorporating palm print, iris, and facial identification.

UNSUB – Unknown subject

Signature– Characteristics of idiosyncratic to specific criminals which fulfill a psychological need.

Serial Murder– A person who has killed three or more people.


http://www.fbi.govhttp://www.trutv.com/library/crime and


Writer’s note:

Fiction is called fiction for a reason. It’s a made up world created by a writer. Writers give their story credibility through research. Readers expect us to know what we are writing about. On the same token, if reader’s think of a FBI profiler as they’ve seen on Criminal Minds or other TV shows, and buy a book expecting this same type of character, then they will be disappointed if the writer went strictly by research, and not buy another book by that author. I believe a successful writer will write a character with the reader in mind. My character is a FBI profiler, even if in reality the job title doesn’t exist in the FBI.

Happy writing!

Diane Kratz

A Look Inside the Behavioral Analysis Unit

52 thoughts on “A Look Inside the Behavioral Analysis Unit

  1. forensics4fiction says:

    A very informative post Diane! Agencies like the FBI are in constant flux to adjust to the changing conditions they find themselves in and it’s important for writer’s to stay on top of these changes. It can get pretty confusing at times. Thanks for a great post.

  2. Anne Marie Becker says:

    Wonderful information, Diane – thank you for compiling it all in one place!

  3. What a wonderful post Diane! Not to mention a gorgeous site! I think what you’re referring to when you talk about fiction writing, is verisimilitude. Otherwise, none of the current slew of crime shows on TV would even exist, LOL! I’m going to Tweet this article!

  4. theresaragan says:

    Hi Diane, thank you so much for all of this information. I love it. I have a question about:

    “Special agents collaborate with BAU on research and training matters, but they’re involved in training, primarily at the National Academy, and are not operationally involved in cases. Yep, sorry to burst your bubble, but contrary to what the Television portrays, these guy’s are analysts and researchers.”

    So the BAU people stay behind their desks and answer questions from there? They could still realistically be involved in a specific case, but they wouldn’t be seen on the scene. Is that right?

    • dianekratz says:

      Every state has a satellite office and in every office they have a special agent called NCAVC coordinator (trained as a so called “profiler” by NCAVC) who works with local law enforcement. This guy decides whether or not the FBI-BAU can help. And if he decides they will be able offer some kind help, they can and do go to the scene to assist. Hope this helps!

  5. lstites says:

    Fascinating! I love learning stuff like this. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Terri Snetehn says:

    Very interesting article. I’m filing this one away because I know I can use this info later. Yay!

  7. larissahoffman says:

    So interesting! Thanks for all the great information.

  8. Heidi Senesac says:

    As usual, very informative. I enjoy watching television programs where a forensic investigation is at the heart of the story and frequently wonder what really goes into the training necessary to qualify to have a job like that. Thanks for clarifying it so efficiently.

  9. dianekratz says:

    I have the utmost respect for all law enforcement agencies who serve and protect us. It’s a job I wouldn’t want to do. And like teachers, (social workers), they don’t get paid enough money for all they do. I’m so happy you stopped by again Heidi.

  10. Alexa Bourne says:

    This is fascinating, Diane! Thanks so much for sharing!

  11. Misty Dietz says:

    Great article, Diane! And good point about our creative license…real life can be so boring. 🙂 Question for you… in your research have you found any definitive areas that the FBI would take over for the state police…specifically I’m thinking of mafia activities…like drug rackets and prostitution/human trafficking rackets. It’s so confusing because initially the municipal law enforcement finds something…but when is it turned to the State guys and when is it turned over to the Feds? Any ideas?

    • dianekratz says:

      Since I’ve concentrated on the BAU, I’m afraid I don’t know how to answer your question. BUT…I belong to a crime writer group that has police officers and a former FBI agent in it. I put the question to them, but they can take awhile for them to get back to me (Usually by the weekend). As soon as I know something, I’ll pass the information on to you. One thing I do know, one crime can be charged to a person at different levels. And the FBI has two years to make a case against someone. Usually, the local’s go first, (Or they could let another agency have it because the criminal would get more time for the crime) if the other agencies wanted to make a case, they could add their charges when they are finished. The person could be facing charges within local, state and federal levels. So my answer to your question is…If they break the law at all those levels, then all those levels could charge them. Hope this helps!

      • dianekratz says:

        Hi Misty,
        Here is the first reply I’ve gotten from the crime loop:

        “I’m a new member to this group but I have read quite a few books about the FBI and have done quite a bit of research myself. Since the question was asked on your blog, I’m assuming the inquirer has access to the Internet.

        The best way to find the answer that would best suit her
        scenario is to go to the FBI’s website http://www.fbi.gov, click on
        About Us at the top of the Home Page, then in the drop-down menu click on What We Investigate.

        The simple answer would be that the FBI investigates federal crimes and the state police (or local police) would investigate state crimes. Contrary to what we see in movies and on TV or read in some books, the FBI doesn’t “take over” state investigations.

        What may get confusing is that during a state investigation a federal
        crime may be found, thus that part of the state investigation would be
        turned over to the FBI. However, the state would continue to investigate the state crime.

        For example, suppose while state police (or city police) are investigating a murder, they find that the victim was involved with the mafia. The police would still investigate the murder, but call in the FBI for the mafia tie-in.

        Most of the time the two agencies share information and help each other with the investigations.

        Of course, there still could be a few law enforcement officers with a
        big ego in either agency who want “all the glory” for themselves.”

        I hope this helps.

        I too hope this helps Misty. I use the FBI web link Maurine mentions for my information that involves the FBI. It just takes time to read through everything.

      • Misty Dietz says:

        Holy cow, just saw this! Thank you for both replies. Lots of great info, lots to think about. I did spend time on the FBI website, but clearly I didn’t get to everything. We writers certainly have to be jack of many trades, especially when our imaginations take us down certain roads. Thanks so much for checking into this for me, Diane. I really appreciate it!

      • dianekratz says:

        Hi Misty,
        Here is another response to your question:

        In my experience as a state prosecutor, the FBI took all cases that crossed state lines (if they were interested) or any other large scale case, if they were interested. I.e., they would bully their way into the case under some kind of statute if they took a large enough interest. The basic rule, however, is that it has to be a federal crime by statute or a crime that crosses state lines. If you can be more specific about the crime, I might be able to be of more help. There are also crimes over which the FBI has jurisdiction that they might not take simply because it’s not worth it for them to pursue.


        Another log in the fire! Hope this helps.

      • Misty Dietz says:

        Yes, crossing state lines or a federal crime (organized crime syndicates), got it! Thanks bunches! 😉

  12. Sandy Loyd says:

    That was really interesting. Thanks for the information.

  13. marsharwest says:

    Another great post, Diane. Definitely a keeper! Most of us are writing fiction, so we get some leeway with the facts, but as PI said above (and I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone to actually use the the “V” word), what we write has to appear to be real.

  14. Sherry Isaac says:

    Wow. I am so glad I subscribed, this really is a one-stop resource stop. Great information, but I’m still going to daydream about Shemar Moore.

  15. Kortni says:

    I’m 17 and seriously considering becoming a criminal profiler or something like that. That, or forensics psychiatry, this article was so informative! I will still daydream about MGG and those long flights. But I can handle the unglamourous reality cause it’s a dream of mine!

  16. Valeria Macias- Monarrez says:

    Hi Diane, love the article and all the info. It really cleared a lot up for me. I’m 16 years old and I really want to get into this field of work once I’ve graduated highschool and college. I was wondering if you knew any colleges/universities with a good phycology and criminal justice program. I’ve been doing a lot of research onppossible schools but I would really like your insight, thanks.

    • dianekratz says:

      Hi Valeria,
      I forward this post to Pete Klismet, former BSU field profiler. I’m hoping he will get in touch with you. He was also a professor in the criminal justice field. If he doesn’t back to you let me know, and I’ll see what I can find out for you.
      Best Wishes.
      Diane Kratz

  17. Stacy Mencke says:

    Wow, marvelous weblog format! How lengthy have you ever been running a blog for? you make running a blog look easy. The full look of your web site is excellent, as neatly as the content material!

  18. Darya says:

    I was wondering if this was okay to use from one of my English presentations about the B.A.U.

    The B.A.U members are analysts and researchers who collaborate with Special Agents at NCAVC.
    (I will be giving you credit for this)

  19. Ardie Freeman says:

    Very interested in the BAU ( crimes against adults), my father is an excellent attorney, and since I was young, I have always been interested in studying people, behaviors, criminology, etc. Thank you, Ardie

  20. Marissa Glover says:

    Hi I really want to help people my whole life and I’m the type of girl who is not afraid to get dirty and I always wanted to help people cause I was bullied and that made me want to help people the rest of my life. I want to learn more so can you please give me some more information cause I live in California now but I will move to Virginia to fulfill my dream so can help people like I always wanted to and I don’t just want to be in the office but on the field I work my behind off all the time to get this and I am only 12 but best to believe I will accomplish this cause this is what my life has ahead of me. So please email me back thank you.
    Marissa ananda Glover

  21. Alexis says:

    Do you happen to know how to get in contact with someone in the BAU or recently retired from the BAU? I’m still in High school and applying for college this year and next year and just have specific questions that I can’t find elsewhere.

  22. […] A Look Inside the BAU: https://profilesofmurder.com/2012/04/11/a-look-inside-the-bau/ […]

  23. Victoria Wanjiru says:

    I love these stuff and detail about solving cases before or after they have occurred. I admire the work of the Agents especially the field agent. How I wish what we are shown on the movies is what normally happens. Love all the intrigue and mystery.

  24. Tobias Aurbakken says:

    What a good article. It eas good for my curiosity. Thanks from Norway.

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