How Realistic Is Criminal Minds?

Ashley Donahue, Social Media Editor

While Agent Aaron Hotchener’s catchphrase “Wheels up in 10” is loved by many, how realistic is this?

Not very, actually. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) doesn’t own a private jet in the nonfictional world. This example is one of the various differences between the show Criminal Minds and the real FBI. 

Criminal Minds is a television show that follows a group of FBI agents from crime to crime for 15 seasons. This show used to be aired on CBS, but now you can watch it on Hulu and Netflix as well as other streaming services. 

While this show has some aspects that accurately depict the life of an FBI profiler, the show’s content is simply outdated and romanticizes this field of work. 

For example, the agents in this show look at their suspects, break down each detail about them, and release a profile to the local law enforcement teams. A profile is a description of what they believe the suspect may look like, act like, and the patterns that appear in their crime scenes. 

While this may have been used 20 years ago by FBI agents, profiling would be something that a forensic psychologist would do, not an FBI agent. 

Another unrealistic part of Criminal Minds is how quickly they’re able to solve crimes. 

When the team of agents in this show is issued a major crime case, they’re able to solve it within one to five days, for the sake of keeping the show going and making one case per episode possible. 

In the real FBI headquarters in Quantico, Virginia, critical crimes like kidnappings or murders could take months to years to make any progress. 

The case numbers are also far less than the show makes it seem. The Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU)  typically only gets about a dozen critical cases a year. 

The amount of people working also varies from what the show depicts. In the show, they primarily give screen time to six agents, and no one else interferes with their work. 

In reality, the FBI has around 35,000 employees who all work both collaboratively and on their separate jobs. 

Despite the many differences, there are a few similarities. 

Both FBI headquarters are located in Quantico, Virginia. There are 56 locations in total, but one of them is located there. 

Another similarity is the heavy influence of technology. While this show started in 2005, they show many modern day technological strategies and techniques that would be used in the bureau today. 

However unrealistic the contents of this show may be, the show continues to be enjoyed by many and brings more people into the forensics field with each year.