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Social Networks and Organized Crime

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2013, $24,990)

The purpose of this award is to identify the informal and personal relationships that undergird organized crime networks. Examining how organized criminal networks are connected to and embedded within the larger non-criminal society is imperative to understanding corruption and concealment as well as criminal mobilization and longevity. To accomplish this, criminology has increasingly employed social network analysis and law enforcement has also moved toward network strategies when investigating and targeting urban gangs, drug cartels, and global trafficking rings. A relational approach to offenders and criminal groups is not new to law enforcement, but the application of network science is.

This award will draw from an original database on early 1900s Chicago organized crime to ask how personal relationships between family members, friends, acquaintances, and neighbors contribute to the structures, activities, and dynamics of organized crime groups. There are two hypotheses guiding this project. Hypothesis one, crime networks became organized through the coming together of different types of personal relationships over time. Hypothesis two, there were individuals located outside of the core of the organized crime network who were structurally important and removing these individuals and their ties from local organized crime networks significantly alters the network's structure.

The analytic plan requires mapping topographies through descriptive network measures, statistical analysis through exponential random graph modeling (models that estimate the likelihood of tie formation in an observed network), and deletion techniques to test the removal effect of certain individuals from the networks. To date, over 4,000 pages of archival documents and secondary sources have been coded for information on more than 2,800 individuals and their nearly 13,000 social ties. The size, scope, and design of the organized crime database permit tests of validity from multiple extractions.

This award has the potential to change theory by uncovering processes of network mobilization within illicit economies, identifying patterns of durability versus vulnerability, and interrogating how multiple types of relationships undergird and influence the formation of criminal ties. ca/ncf

Date Created: September 8, 2013