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)

The FBI’s NCAVC

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).

FBI TERMINOLOGY FOR PROGRAMS INSIDE THE NCAVC

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.

Resources:

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

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki.

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