Early one Friday afternoon, police officials from a midsized city contacted the local office of the FBI. A 911 caller had just left a message: seven bombs had been planted at a petroleum facility, and it would blow up within 24 hours. The male caller left no information about his identity or motive.
Police officers began gathering evidence from the area around the petroleum facility while the local FBI office quickly contacted the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) at Quantico, Virginia. Realizing that these bombs had the potential to kill or injure hundreds of employees and cause millions of dollars in damage, FBI agents from the NCAVC and the FBI Academy's Behavioral Science Unit immediately began analyzing the recording of the call. (1) Within hours, they advised local authorities of their assessment of the offender's possible characteristics and the potential risk of the threat's legitimacy. What had the agents discovered in the recording of the telephone call? How did they find it?
Law enforcement agencies routinely train their new recruits to recognize crime scene evidence. Hairs and fibers, DNA, and ballistic patterns represent examples of forensic evidence that can provide investigative leads and tie offenders to their crimes. On the other hand, criminal investigative analysis, formerly known as criminal profiling, is an investigative tool that can link offenders to their crimes by analyzing their behavior.
Criminal Investigative Analysis
Criminal investigative analysis originally was designed for, and works best in, investigations of serial criminal acts, such as serial homicides, rapes, or arsons, but it also can be used to analyze individual crimes. This process examines the crime scene evidence and information about the victim to assess the offender's behavior. The offender's behavior at the crime scene and interaction with victims can help reveal the motive for committing the crime. It also can help investigators construct a description of the offender's personality and demographic characteristics.
One type of behavior often overlooked, or underused, exists in the offender's actual language. The offender's written or spoken language can provide investigators with a wealth of information. This information, in turn, suggests the types of analyses investigators may request when referring their cases to the FBI for criminal investigative analysis. What kind of information does language provide?
Both written and spoken language have features that may reveal an individual's geographical origins; ethnicity or race; age; sex; and occupation, education level, and religious orientation or background. Sociolinguistics is the study of language variability, including the relationships between social characteristics and linguistic features.