Using in-house, cutting-edge psychological research and operational experience to better understand criminal behavior and assist in solving cases
Experts in the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Units work a variety of cases across the country, from terrorism and cybercrime to violent crimes against children and adults. They consult on new, active, and cold cases — working in tandem with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners.
Their work includes:
- Criminal Investigative Analysis: Analyzing an offender’s motivation, victim selection, sophistication level, actions, and relationship to that particular crime, along with the sequence of events
- Interview Strategy: Combining behavioral principles, psychological concepts, and science-based methods to prepare for, conduct, and analyze an interview
- Investigative Strategy: Behaviorally-based recommendations to amplify an investigation’s effectiveness and prioritize resources
- Threat Assessments: Fact-based method that focuses on an individual’s pattern of thinking and behavior to determine whether they are moving toward an attack on an identified target, and to what extent
Supporting Local Law Enforcement and Communities
Behavioral analysts at the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) can provide:
- Investigative, interview, and prosecution strategies
- Ways to link cases using behavioral characteristics
- Advice on working with the media
- Unknown offender profiles
1972: The FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit was created to consult with criminal justice professionals worldwide on different, unusual, or bizarre cases. Originally called profiling, this is now commonly known as behavioral analysis.
1985: The National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) was established at the FBI Academy to provide instruction, research, and investigative support.
1985: The Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) was created to link seemingly unrelated crime investigations and share investigative data from violent crimes across the country.
1996: The Child Abduction and Serial Killer Unit (CASKU) was established to focus on child abductions/ disappearances and serial or mass murder cases.
2010: The Behavioral Threat Assessment Center (BTAC) was created to support the prevention of terrorism and targeted violence.
2012: Increases in cybercrime led the FBI to develop behavioral assessments of cyber criminals and proactive countermeasures.
2018: BTAC establishes the nationwide Threat Assessment and Threat Management (TATM) Initiative in response to tragedies in Las Vegas, NV, and Parkland, FL.
Violent Criminal Apprehension Program
The Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) Web National Crime Database houses a multitude of criminal cases and can help determine patterns between seemingly unrelated crimes. Nearly 5,000 law enforcement agencies across all 50 states have submitted more than 100,000 cases.
ViCAP data includes:
- Sexual assaults
- Missing persons
- Unidentified human remains
ViCAP services include:
- Nationwide investigative repository of violent crimes
- Crime analysis products (timelines, maps, etc.) for law enforcement partners
- Communication and investigative coordination among law enforcement agencies for the apprehension of violent, serial offenders
- Case linkage analysis
Threat Assessment and Threat Management Initiative
The FBI’s Behavioral Threat Assessment Center (BTAC) is the only national-level, multi-agency, multi-disciplinary task force focused on the prevention of terrorism and targeted violence through the application of behaviorally based operational support, training, and research. BTAC is staffed by agents, analysts, and mental health practitioners who provide threat assessment and threat management support to federal, state, local, tribal, and campus law enforcement partners, as well as community stakeholders working diligently across the United States on targeted violence prevention.
The Threat Assessment and Threat Management (TATM) Initiative fosters information sharing and collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of FBI, law enforcement, and community partners aiming to prevent terrorism attacks and acts of targeted violence. TATM teams are scalable to work for an individual school, school district, county, region, or state.
A threat management team can include representatives from:
- Law enforcement
- Human resources
- Legal systems
- Employee assistance/social services
- Facility/campus/organizational security
- School administration
If you are seeking assistance with setting up a law enforcement TATM team, please reach out to your local FBI office and request to speak with the Behavioral Analysis Coordinator and/or the Threat Management Coordinator.
Preventing Targeted Violence
Identifying Concerning Behavior
Active shooters don't snap. They consider, plan, and prepare for violence.
Through this process, they often display concerning behaviors (i.e., observable, identifiable behaviors that indicate the person may be on a path to targeted violence). While no single behavior means a person is on a path to committing targeted violence, multiple behaviors may indicate cause for concern.
Research on prior active shooter incidents have identified the following common concerning behaviors:
- Significant loss, humiliation, or setback– whether real or perceived– in someone’s life.
- Significantly reduced ability to cope with stress or setbacks.
- Lack of non-violent options for solving their problems.
- Deliberate or inadvertent disclosure of violent plans or upcoming alarming events (verbal, written, or online).
- Persistent fantasies about violence.
- Increasingly troublesome or concerning interpersonal interactions with others.
- Aggressive angry outbursts or physical aggression.
- Behavior that makes other people worry that the individual may become violent.
- Withdrawal from relationships and/or loss of support systems.
- Reduced interest in hobbies and other activities; worsening performance at school.
- Obsessive or troubling interest in prior attackers or attacks.
- Obsessive or troubling interest in obtaining firearms and/or other weapons.
- Obsessive or troubling interest in tactical gear, clothing, and military paraphernalia.
- Creation of a manifesto, video, suicide note, or other efforts designed to claim credit for an impending act of violence.
- Testing the boundaries or probing security at a possible target. For example, visiting school grounds while expelled/suspended or asking probing questions about security.
Publications and Law Enforcement Guides
- Making Prevention a Reality: Identifying, Assessing, and Managing the Threat of Targeted Attacks
- A Study of Lone Offender Terrorism in the United States (1972-2015)
- A Study of the Pre-Attack Behaviors of Active Shooters in the United States Between 2000-2013
- Campus Attacks: Targeted Violence Affecting Institutions of Higher Education
- A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States Between 2000 – 2013
- The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective
Quick Reference Research Guides
Behavioral Threat Assessment Center (BTAC)
National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC)
- Mental Health Considerations in Threat Management of Terrorism Investigative Subjects
- Bystanders Are Key To Countering Terrorism
- Threat Assessment and Threat Management (TATM) — A Model Critical to Terrorism Prevention (1 of 3)
- Threat Assessment and Threat Management (TATM) — Multidisciplinary Teams (2 of 3)
- Threat Assessment and Threat Management (TATM) — Assessment and Management (3 of 3)
- Bystanders are Key to Countering Terrorism (NCTC, DHS, FBI)
- Mental Health Considerations in Threat Management of Terrorism Investigative Subjects (NCTC, DHS, FBI)
- Threat Assessment and Threat Management