Thursday, December 22, 2011

ViCAP: On the Trail of Violence (2002)

More info: IMDb

Plot: Here's another fine entry into the made-for-cable, serial killer-centric documentaries genre which tend to air in the middle of the night on Investigation Discovery. This one, though not about any one particular killer, focuses a lot on several different killers, and how they led to the creation of (or were apprehended because of) the FBI's crime tracking software, called ViCAP (Violent Criminal Apprehension Program.) This film traces the origin of said program, from it's early days, in the 50's, when a crazy dreamer in L.A. (Detective Pierce Brooks, to be more precise) envisioned a nationwide network of police computers which would share information about crimes and criminals, therefore making it easier to connect seemingly unrelated crimes in different jurisdictions, and therefore get the bad guys. Oh, his superiors called him crazy, telling him that such a computer would cost a million dollars and take up a whole city block. Well, time went on, serial killing became more of a thing, and lo and behold, 25 years later, technology caught up with Detective Brooks' vision. He would, in fact, become the FBI's first director of ViCAP, n the late 70's.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Sure.

This is an interesting piece. It seems obvious now that having a central database for this sort of thing is a no brainer and a huge win for law enforcement across the country but it wasn't 5o years ago. It's a great story with everything you would expect in a documentary from talking heads to archival footage. I specifically enjoyed hearing about some of the early success stories. While I enjoy watching people do bad things (especially if they're really, really good at it), I really dig the flipside seeing the detectives and cops do their thing. I LOVE great police work and problem solving.

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