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The Complexity of Crime Network Data: a Case Study of Its Consequences for Crime Control and the Study of Networks
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0973-3481
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2015 (English)In: PLoS ONE, ISSN 1932-6203, E-ISSN 1932-6203, Vol. 10, no 3, e0119309Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The field of social network analysis has received increasing attention during the past decades and has been used to tackle a variety of research questions, from prevention of sexually transmitted diseases to humanitarian relief operations. In particular, social network analyses are becoming an important component in studies of criminal networks and in criminal intelligence analysis. At the same time, intelligence analyses and assessments have become a vital component of modern approaches in policing, with policy implications for crime prevention, especially in the fight against organized crime. In this study, we have a unique opportunity to examine one specific Swedish street gang with three different datasets. These datasets are the most common information sources in studies of criminal networks: intelligence, surveillance and co-offending data. We use the data sources to build networks, and compare them by computing distance, centrality, and clustering measures. This study shows the complexity factor by which different data sources about the same object of study have a fundamental impact on the results. The same individuals have different importance ranking depending on the dataset and measure. Consequently, the data source plays a vital role in grasping the complexity of the phenomenon under study. Researchers, policy makers, and practitioners should therefore pay greater attention to the biases affecting the sources of the analysis, and be cautious when drawing conclusions based on intelligence assessments and limited network data. This study contributes to strengthening social network analysis as a reliable tool for understanding and analyzing criminality and criminal networks.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 10, no 3, e0119309
Keyword [en]
Crime networks, social network analysis, gangs, data complexity
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-115366DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0119309ISI: 000351183500080OAI: diva2:796809
R and HM are grateful to Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (The Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation) grant nr. P11-0866:1 for financial support (
Available from: 2015-03-20 Created: 2015-03-20 Last updated: 2016-04-25Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Criminal Organizing: Studies in the sociology of organized crime
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Criminal Organizing: Studies in the sociology of organized crime
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

What organized crime is and how it can be prevented are two of the key questions in both organized crime research and criminal policy. However, despite many attempts, organized crime research, the criminal justice system and criminal policy have failed to provide a shared and recognized conceptual definition of organized crime, which has opened the door to political interpretations. Organized crime is presented as an objective reality—mostly based on anecdotal empirical evidence and generic descriptions—and has been understood, as being intrinsically different from social organization, and this has been a justification for treating organized crime conceptually separately.

In this dissertation, the concept of organized crime is deconstructed and analyzed. Based on five studies and an introductory chapter, I argue that organized crime is an overarching concept based on an abstraction of different underlying concepts, such as gang, mafia, and network, which are in turn semi-overarching and overlapping abstractions of different crime phenomena, such as syndicates, street-gangs, and drug networks. This combination of a generic concept based on underlying concepts, which are themselves subject to similar conceptual difficulties, has given rise to a conceptual confusion surrounding the term and the concept of organized crime. The consequences of this conceptual confusion are not only an issue of semantics, but have implications for our understanding of the nature of criminal collaboration as well as both legal and policy consequences. By combining different observers, methods and empirical materials relating to dimensions of criminal collaboration, I illustrate the strong analogies that exist between forms of criminal collaboration and the theory of social organization.

I argue in this dissertation that criminal organizing is not intrinsically different from social organizing. In fact, the dissertation illustrates the existence of strong analogies between patterns of criminal organizing and the elements of social organizations. But depending on time and context, some actions and forms of organizing are defined as criminal, and are then, intentionally or unintentionally, presumed to be intrinsically different from social organizing. Since the basis of my argument is that criminal organizing is not intrinsically different from social organizing, I advocate that the study of organized crime needs to return to the basic principles of social organization in order to understand the emergence of, and the underlying mechanism that gives rise to, the forms of criminal collaboration that we seek to explain. To this end, a new general analytical framework, “criminal organizing”, that brings the different forms of criminal organizations and their dimensions together under a single analytical tool, is proposed as an example of how organizational sociology can advance organized crime research and clarify the chaotic concept of organized crime. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Sociology, Stockholm University, 2016. 103 p.
Stockholm studies in sociology, ISSN 0491-0885 ; 62
Organized crime, Criminal organizing, Social order, Mafia, Gang, Network
National Category
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-128362 (URN)978-91-7649-364-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-06-03, Hörsal 4, Hus B, Universitetsvägen 10 B, Stockholm, 10:00 (Swedish)

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 5: Manuscript.


Available from: 2016-05-11 Created: 2016-03-24 Last updated: 2016-05-12Bibliographically approved

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