FBI Crime Analysts Provide Training on Violent Criminal Apprehension Program
FBI crime analysts provide training on the Bureau's Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) web platform in Scottsdale, Arizona. The database tool helps find similarities in cases that may be serial in nature.
Narrator: What if there was a place where crime investigators could upload information to see if their cases might be part of a serial pattern? Such a place exists in the form of an FBI database of more than 85,000 homicides, sexual assaults, and missing and unidentified persons. The Bureau wants more investigators to know about it to help them potentially make connections between cases. To promote awareness about the database and to grow the repository, the Bureau’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, or ViCAP, conducts training sessions with law enforcement agencies across the country.
Rick Blankenship: ViCAP is unique in the sense that we are looking for those different cases that tend to lend themselves to a serial nature.
Narrator: These could include cases where offenders leave behind unique signatures—was the victim posed, for example, or items taken from the scene?
Rick Blankenship: When they come across or have one of these types of cases, they place it in ViCAP. It opens up the opportunity for them to use our resources, the ViCAP crime analysts, so that we can do the analytical work for them, provide the agency with investigative leads so they can hopefully bring their case to resolution.
Narrator: At a recent training in Scottsdale, Arizona, about 30 homicide investigators, crime analysts, and police administrators logged into the ViCAP system. The secure, web-based platform prompts users through about a 100 questions, gleaning investigative details that could be the keys to solving a case or tying several cases together.
Thomas Kelly: I think the biggest advantage to the ViCAP program is intelligence and the sharing of the information.
Narrator: Thomas Kelly, chief of the Apache Junction Police Department in Arizona, has been using and promoting the database for years. He said the ability to cross-match your own unique case against thousands of others is an invaluable tool.
Thomas E. Kelly: The ViCAP program is the one you want to at least get the information out, because now you have access to x number of thousand of other crimes or connections and possible leads that you might be able to put that case into the system and get a hit or a ping that your case might be connected to a case in Illinois or New York or wherever. There’s constant connections being made on a daily basis. Every time a new case comes in there is another potential it could be connected somewhere.
Narrator: By day’s end, each of the new ViCAP users had entered an open case into the system, expanding its capabilities. T.R. Davidson, a detective with the Scottsdale Police Department, isn’t new to the system. His department entered case information into ViCAP about the murder of a 31-year-old female shortly after her death in February 2015. He’s hoping ViCAP might find links to his case’s unique set of circumstances.
T.R. Davidson: There may be that other case out there that we may come across that will allow us to link these cases and develop new information, hopefully leading to an offender and solving this crime.
Narrator: ViCAP operates within the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. Use of the ViCAP database, and by extension the FBI’s crime analysts, is free. An investigator can enter a case in as little as 30 minutes. ViCAP officials say that’s a small investment to help break a case.
Rick Blankenship: The sooner that they put the case in, then the sooner that the resources that ViCAP can bring to the table and assist in the investigation and provide investigative leads. It just benefits their agency. And ViCAP is not here to try to take over the investigation for them. We want to merge together, partner with them, provide the investigative leads, and bring the case to a resolution.
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