Blue background image ATF seal

Fact Sheet - Criminal Profiling Program

May, 2019
Gold background image

Fast Facts

  1. ATF’s Criminal Profiling Program analyzes the behavior of suspects to assist investigators in the identification of suspects in arson and bombing investigations.

  2. ATF’s criminal profilers provide training to hundreds of police and fire personnel on behavioral profiling techniques and other critical investigative support.

  3. ATF profilers undergo an intensive two-phase training program that includes behavioral science principles, forensic science, pathology, and crime scene analysis and interpretation.

Since 1986, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has assigned special agent criminal profilers to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) in Quantico, VA. The NCAVC is a behavioral science and resource center oriented for law enforcement that offers investigative support, research and training to law enforcement agencies throughout the world.

The primary mission of ATF behavioral profilers is to support arson and bombing investigations, which are at the core of the agency’s mission. ATF profilers also support any other criminal investigation that can benefit from their specialized knowledge and skills.  Profilers assist in the identification, arrest and prosecution of offenders by analyzing the behavior of suspects.  Profilers partner with local, state and federal law enforcement and fire service agencies in the U.S. and worldwide. Profilers also possess other specialized expertise including:

  • Crime Analysis: Linking serial crimes and accurately identifying crime-scene behavior through analysis and interpretation.
  • Profiling: Developing the behavioral, personality and biographical characteristics of an unknown offender.
  • Investigative Strategy: Using behavioral science principles to suggest investigative techniques in unsolved investigations.
  • Interviewing Techniques: Developing interview strategies to motivate a specific individual to cooperate or confess.
  • Search Warrant Assistance: Offering language for the probable cause section of an affidavit.
  • Prosecution and Trial Strategies: Assisting the prosecution team with the order and examination of witnesses to maximize prosecutorial impact, case presentation, defendant cross-examination and jury selection.
  • Expert Witness Testimony: Educating the court and jury on their interpretation of crime-scene behavior and evidence.
  • Statement Analysis: Analyzing a subject’s language to develop interview themes and to identify possible areas of deception, hidden meanings and motivations.
  • Media Strategies: Crafting language for release to media outlets to motivate an offender to communicate with authorities or elicit the cooperation of unknown witnesses or co-conspirators.
  • Threat Assessment: Assessing the actual potential of an individual to act violently in a particular situation.

Abstract image of a brain in a persons handATF profilers undergo an intensive two-phase training program in behavioral science principles, forensic science, pathology, and crime scene analysis and interpretation after which they are certified in Criminal Investigative Analysis.

The profilers routinely lecture behavioral profiling techniques at various conferences as part of they offer to hundreds of police and fire personnel each year additionally providing support to various ATF training courses. They also work on research projects at the NCAVC to publish articles designed to educate law enforcement, having contributed articles and studies on bombing and arson profiling in various professional publications.

In addition to internal resources, the ATF profilers have access to the NCAVC expertise and research on violent crime. They provide expertise at both the NCAVC and other local and state law enforcement organizations that help capture serial arsonists, bombers, school shooters, serial murderers and other violent offenders. Criminal profiling has a significant impact on deterring, capturing and reducing incidents involving persons who engage in threatening communications, and those who seek to engage in violent actions in the workplace and domestic situations.


Gold background image