Employees in Hallway

Behavioral Analysis

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:​

  • Homicides​
  • 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:

  • Significantly reduced ability to cope with stress or setbacks. 
  • Seeing violence as the only way to solve their problems. 
  • Disclosure of violent plans or upcoming alarming events (verbal, written, or online). 
  • Repeated or detailed fantasies about violence. 
  • Increasingly troublesome or concerning interactions with others. 
  • Angry outbursts or physical aggression.
  • Behavior that makes other people worried that the person may become violent. 
  • Reduced interest in hobbies and other activities; worsening performance at school and/or work. 
  • Obsessive or troubling interest in prior attackers or attacks. 
  • Obsessive or troubling interest in obtaining firearms, other weapons, tactical gear, clothing, and/or military paraphernalia. 
  • Creation of a manifesto, video, suicide note, or other item meant to explain or claim credit for an act of violence. 
  • Asking questions about or testing security at a possible target.

Resources 

Press Releases

Publications and Law Enforcement Guides

Quick Reference Research Guides

Quick Legal Guidance Sheets

Joint Products

Additional Resources

Reference Materials

The following are peer-reviewed journal articles that BAU staff contributed to:

  • Jones, N. T., Williams, M. M., Cilke, T. R., Gibson, K. A., O'Shea, C. L., & Gray, A. E. (2024). Are all pathway behaviors observable? A quantitative analysis of the pathway to intended violence model. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management.
  • Williams, M. M., Jones, N. T., Cilke, T. R., Gibson, K. A., Gray, A. E., & O'Shea, C. L. (2024). Assessing the reliability and validity of the North Carolina BeTA Investigation Overview-25 (NCBIO-25) in a sample of active shooters and persons of concern. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management.
  • Gibson, K. (2023). Pathway to Targeted Violence: Can Early Intervention Work?. Dep't of Just. J. Fed. L. & Prac., 71, 39.
  • O'Donnell, D. E., Shelton, J. L., Huffman, M. C., Porter, K., & Miller, M. (2023). 911 calls in mysterious disappearances of children: Indicators of veracity and deception. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 37(3), 578– 589.
  • O’Donnell, D. E., Shelton, J. L., Shaffer, S. A., Isom, A., Bowlin, J., & Wood, E. (2022). “My child is missing”: 911 calls in mysterious disappearances of children. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 67, 101795.
  • Miller, M. L., Merola, M. A., Opanashuk, L., Robins, C. J., Chancellor, A. S., & Craun, S. W. (2020). 911 what’s your emergency?: Deception in 911 homicide and suicide staged as homicide calls. Homicide Studies, 25(2), 189-189.
  • Silver, J., Craun, S.W., Wyman, J.V., & Simons, A.B. (2020). A coproduction research model between academia and law enforcement responsible for investigating threats. Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism.
  • Gibson, K.A., Craun, S.W., Ford, A.G., Solik, K., & Silver, J. (2020) Possible attackers? A comparison between the behaviors and stressors of persons of concern and active shooters. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management, 7 (1-2), 1-12.
  • Craun, S.W., Gibson, K.A., Ford, A.G., Solik, K, & Silver, J. (2020) (In)action: Variation in bystander responses between persons of concern and active shooters. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management, 7 (1-2), 113-121. 
  • Rossin, M., Craun, S.W., Miller, M., & Collier, M. (2019). A content analysis of initial proof of life hostage videos released by international terrorist groups. Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression,3, 254-265.
  • Craun, S.W., Rossin, M.J., & Collier, M.R. (2019). Interpretations of proof-of-life videos and their impact on supported interventions. Journal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism, 14(2), 115-128. 
  • Meloy, J. R., and Amman, M. (2016) Public Figure Attacks in the United States, 1995–2015. Behav. Sci. Law, 34: 622–644. doi: 10.1002/bsl.2253.
  • Simons, A., & Tunkel, R. F. (2014). The assessment of anonymous threatening communications. In J. R. Meloy & J. Hoffmann (Eds.), International handbook of threat assessment (pp. 195-213). Oxford University Press.