Criminal

A database that could catch rapists has been overlooked for 30 years

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

It’s been over 30 years since the FBI debuted a computer system that could help police link crimes to their perpetrators using behavioral markers instead of DNA. Police usually rely on physical evidence like fingerprints to connect different crimes by the same offender, but the idea behind the “Violent Criminal Apprehension Program,” or ViCAP”–a database of criminals’ weapons and techniques–is that serial offenders often have a “signature” weapon or method of attack. That may be especially true for sexual predators, who are also especially likely to be repeat attackers. Yet in spite of massive advances in data collection over the past three decades, ViCAP remains small and under-funded: police only file ViCAP reports on less than one percent of violent crimes annually. In a story for ProPublica (co-published with The Atlantic), investigative journalist T. Christine Miller looks at what went wrong with this promising program.

Read the full story at ProPublica.

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