Home News Stories 2008 August ViCAP Goes Online
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ViCAP Goes Online

ViCAP Goes Online
And Closer to Investigators Who Need It


vicap080308a.jpgSince 1985, our Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, or ViCAP, has linked an untold number of seemingly unrelated violent crime investigations…and helped state and local law enforcement solve many of those cases.

Now, it’s about to get even better. ViCAP will soon be available—from any Internet terminal—to participating law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal level.

First, a little history. ViCAP’s original concept—to share investigative data from violent crimes—actually came from a local police officer. Eventually, it was decided that the FBI would house this data, primarily because of our experience in being a national repository of other types of criminal justice data, like fingerprints.

ViCAP’s initial focus was transient/serial killers who crossed jurisdictional boundaries with impunity. But it expanded and now includes actual/attempted homicides, missing persons (believed victims of foul play), kidnappings (including child abductions), sexual assaults, and unidentified human remains. The database houses modus operandi, signature aspects, crime scene descriptions/photos, victim and suspect details, and other pertinent information.

ViCAP today. Our database contains about 150,000 open and closed violent crime investigations submitted by some 3,800 state and local law enforcement agencies—and includes some “cold cases” that go back to the 1950s.

Once cases are added, they are continually compared against other cases housed in the database.  Based on common traits and similar modus operandi, cases that are possibly related are linked. Then our ViCAP analysts take over and give the process the human touch—looking for patterns to pinpoint crimes that may have been committed by the same offender, and hopefully generating new investigative leads.

ViCAP also offers additional assistance to our partners—including multi-agency coordination efforts, investigative support, case management help, crime mapping, case series matrices, and on-scene case assistance.

Evolving ViCAP access. Back in 1985, ViCAP information sat on a mainframe computer in Quantico, Virginia, accessible only to FBI personnel. Users usually submitted their case information to us through the mail.

In the mid-1990s, we migrated ViCAP to a client-server system to get the information closer to the people who needed it most—state and local law enforcement. That basically meant we put ViCAP software on desktop computers in police agencies around the country. Users were then able to electronically send us their case information, as well as any requests for assistance.

The process was faster, but we continued looking for ways to enhance it. Thus, after several years in development—and in coordination with the ViCAP advisory board of state and local representatives—ViCAP Web was born, accessible through the secure Law Enforcement Online portal.

Benefits of a web-enabled ViCAP? Formerly, only ViCAP personnel had access to the system’s data. Now, agencies will have direct access to the national database so they will be able to input and retrieve data instantly, search the database for similar cases, review historical cases, and update their own investigative data. As a result, the database will be more current.

Other benefits include the ability to offer nationwide web-based training to users, faster updates and enhancements to the system, and the end of maintaining hundreds of standalone ViCAP computers.

In the short-term, law enforcement agencies will reap the benefits of this new and improved ViCAP. In the long-term, it’s the American public—kept safer from violent criminals—who will benefit.