Criminal Profiling: Part 1 History and Method
Evolution: What the FBI's BSU is Today
Special Agent Mark A. Hilts is the current chief of the F.B.I.'s Behavioral Analysis Unit that deals with crimes against adults, including serial murder, and he got his start in 1981 as an officer with the Police Department in Plano, Texas. "Starting off on the ground floor with crime scenes and criminal investigation," he says of his six and a half years there, "has been greatly beneficial." He then applied to the Bureau and for seven years was assigned to their Miami Division.
"I ended up on a violent crime task force there," he explains, "and we worked kidnappings, extortions, hijackings, and violent fugitives. During that time I became interested in the programs at the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crimes and became an NCAVC Coordinator in the Miami division. Every one of our fifty-six field offices has at least one NCAVC Coordinator in residence. The coordinators are the primary liaison with the field offices and with local and state law enforcement. They're working with local authorities every day, so they're in a position to know when there's something that would benefit from us taking a look at it. The coordinators are our front line."
While in Miami, Hilts was involved in a serial murder investigation known as the Tamiami Trail Strangler, which ran from September 1994 with the first victim until June 1995. Rory Conde, a native Colombian who resided along the Tamiami Trail, murdered six prostitutes, including a transvestite. He left a drawing on one victim indicating this was his third murder, which helped to link the crimes. "After the third victim had been killed in that case," says Hilts, "I got a phone call from someone I knew in Metro Dade. I spent the next couple of months working with them, and in my role as NCAVC Coordinator, interacting with the unit at Quantico." The final killing occurred in January, but it took another five months before the Strangler made a mistake. He duct-taped a woman and left her in his home, but she was able to get a neighbor's attention and Conde was arrested. In 1999, he was convicted of the sixth murder in the series, and then in 2001 he pled guilty to the other five.
Around the time of that investigation, Hilts put in for a position with the Child Abduction and Serial Killer Unit, and based on his experience from Miami, he got the job, joining eleven other agents assigned to focus on such cases.
When asked about how the original Behavioral Science Unit evolved, Hilts responded with the following history:
"The Behavioral Science Unit, which was part of the Training Division, became the Behavioral Science Investigative Support Unit. The next significant evolution was in 1994, with the creation of the Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG), to integrate the F.B.I.'s crisis management, behavioral, and tactical resources within one entity. By that time the unit had changed its name again to the Investigative Support Unit. At the same time, the Director of the FBI created the Child Abduction and Serial Killer Unit. So that was the first time there were multiple operational units rather than a single unit: the Profiling and Behavioral Assessment Unit and the Child Abduction and Serial Killer Unit.
"That lasted about three years. Then we evolved once again into just the Behavioral Analysis Unit, East and West. The units were divided geographically, east and west of the Mississippi River, each doing the same thing in different areas. Then in 1999, based on the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, the F.B.I. received some mandates related to crimes against children and serial murder, and one of them was the creation of the Child Abduction and Serial Murder Investigative Resource Center (CASMIRC). For a while, CASMIRC was a training and research entity supporting the BAU East and the BAU West. That's how things remained until after 9-11 [the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001]. We then started getting more involved in counter-terrorism responsibilities, so we took another look at ourselves to ensure that we were structured most appropriately.
"At that point, we decided to remake ourselves again into what we are today, which is the Behavioral Analysis Unit 1 [counter-terrorism and threat assessment], Behavioral Analysis Unit 2 [crimes against adults], Behavioral Analysis Unit 3 [crimes against children], and the VICAP Unit, which had broken off from the Profiling and Behavioral Assessment Unit a few years before. By structuring ourselves by crime problem, rather than geographically, we are able to develop a concentration of personnel in each unit that possess specialized training and experience in their areas of responsibility."
Some readers will be unhappy to learn that the offices are no longer in the Academy's lower levels, a place fondly described in many of the former profilers' books. "We moved out of there about nine years ago," Hilts explains. "Eventually the rest of the NCAVC and the rest of CIRG followed us." Nevertheless, there is still a Behavioral Science Unit in residence there, but it's not the same as the BSU of twenty years ago. "For years, there was no Behavioral Science Unit at the F.B.I., but several years ago, the Training Division recreated a Behavioral Science Unit. We collaborate with BSU on research and training matters, but it can be a source of confusion, because that's the name of the program where this all started, but they're involved in training, primarily at the National Academy, and are not operationally involved in cases the way we are."