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.
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.
Common concerning behaviors include:
- Experiencing a great loss, humiliation, or setback – or believing they have
- Becoming less able to cope with stress or setbacks
- Losing interest in hobbies or activities
- Withdrawing from relationships or losing their support system
- Performing worse at school or work
- Having angry outbursts or showing physical aggression toward others
- Seeing only violent options to solve their problems
- Fantasizing about violence
- Becoming preoccupied with past attacks or attackers, with ways to obtain firearms or weapons, or with tactical gear, clothing, or military paraphernalia
- Revealing violent plans or upcoming alarming events – on purpose or accidentally – in conversation, in writing, or online
- Creating a manifesto, video, suicide note, or other way to claim credit for an impending act of violence
- Testing boundaries at a possible target, such as visiting school grounds while expelled/suspended or asking probing questions about security
If you are concerned:
- Call or visit a local police department.
- Contact the FBI online at www.tips.fbi.gov, by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI, or by visiting your local FBI field office.
- Check local resources for a school or community threat assessment team or mental health providers.
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
- Threat Assessment and Threat Management (TATM) — Multidisciplinary Teams
- Threat Assessment and Threat Management (TATM) — Assessment and Management
- 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