Employees in Hallway 2

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 Behavioral Analysis Units (BAUs) 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: Providing behaviorally-based recommendations to amplify an investigation’s effectiveness and prioritize resources. 
  • Threat Assessments: Analyzing 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 Law Enforcement Communities 

The FBI prioritizes its investigative support to local law enforcement through programs like the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program and the Threat Assessment Threat Management Initiative.  

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.

The FBI’s Behavioral Threat Assessment Center (BTAC) is the only national-level, multiagency, multidisciplinary 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 to 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. 

Identifying and Reporting Concerning Behavior  

Have you noticed someone behaving in a way that concerns you?

Parents, family, friends, and loved ones often observe concerning behaviors that – if reported to authorities – may result in preventing violent attacks.  

What to Know

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 established the nationwide Threat Assessment and Threat Management (TATM) Initiative in response to tragedies in Las Vegas, NV, and Parkland, FL.

No single behavior means a person is on a path to committing targeted violence, but multiple concerning behaviors may indicate cause for concern. 

Common concerning behaviors include: 

  • 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.

What to Do

If you are concerned, talk about your concerns with someone you respect. Share what you know and discuss your options. If you choose to report your concerns, you may contact your: 

  • Local Police Office: Call your local police department on the phone or walk in to report your concerns in person. 
  • Local FBI Office. Report your concerns to the FBI by visiting www.tips.fbi.gov, calling 1- 800-CALL-FBI, or visiting your local FBI office
  • Local Resources: Check for a local school or community threat assessment team or mental health providers.


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.
  • 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.