The FBI and Profiling



In the late 1970's the Behavioural Science Unit(BSU) of the FBI took a bigger step to battling serial offences by undertaking profiling and larger behavioural studies.  Profiling is understanding the offender, looking at a crime scene and judging by the evidence there what the possible killer is like and what he has done, to achieve this the FBI established the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program(VICAP) and the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime(NCAVC).  VICAP is a program used to evaluate unsolved crimes and is used to evaluate similarities in crimes, most of this has been done by putting certain information into a computer database.  NCAVC is a department in the FBI which pools in such resources as behaviour studies, profiling, research etc. and using specially trained agents to operate it and assist in investigations around the US; it must be said now that the FBI's purpose is not to solve a case but to aid police with a profile and/or information to help the police solve it.  One man at the fore-front of the activity is now retired FBI agent Robert K. Ressler.  Ressler played a major part in the BSU in the late 1970's by undertaking the Criminal Personality Research Project(CPRP) which was interviewing known killers such as Speck, Berkowitz, Kemper, Manson and many other killers known and unknown; this helped with the basis of profiling and other behavioural research.  Ressler then took on profiling and other behavioural projects such as doing lectures, studies, psychology etc; he also helped establish VICAP and NCAVC.  The FBI plays a crucial part in serial murder and without their assistance serial killers would be more rampant.

To go into more detail of how profiling is achieved the crime is reviewed by a profiler who looks at scene analysis, autopsy pictures, witness report, and any other evidence that was left at the crime scene.   Profilers also have to take in such factors as motive, mobility, organization, victim preference, murder weapon, location, etc.  The main part of the job is psychology, how did they do it, when did they do it, why did they do it, and the most important one - who did it.  The whole profession of profiling is not based on guesses, there is never guessing.  With a profilers hard earned knowledge and deepest psychological thinkings a profiler will a majority of the time be correct with maybe one or two mistakes.  It goes by what the person did and who it would most likely be.   They might find a body of a dead woman at the side of a highway, tied at the hands, naked and raped.  This suggests many things as to a profile of the killer - he must have been travelling at the time by car so its likely that he had a job that required him to use a car, he then personalized with the victim to get in the car.  He then tied the woman and raped and killed her.  The act of tying her at her hands is organized, he planned and equipped himself for this kill knowing that tying her at the hands would make the victim not fight back or escape.  These types of clues lead to the most likely identity of the killer.  Profilers are experts at matching evidence with the most likely offender.  A profiler is alot like a detective looking over evidence with a suspect profile in his mind at the same time.

Some good books on the FBI's profiling involvement in serial murder -

'Mindhunter' - by John Douglas

'Whoever Fights Monsters' - by Robert K. Ressler & Tom Shachtman

'I Have Lived In The Monster' - by Robert K. Ressler & Tom Shachtman



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Modus Operandi - Serial Killers