The Networks of Organized Crime



Network theory has helped to expand the potential for economics as a tool to analyze and asses our real world. With given information, an economist can map and graph the structure, mobility flow, and influence of a network. In Italy, network theory has recently become a weapon against organized crime. Stefano Gurciullo of University College London has been collecting information in the business sector of Sicily, Italy; a town renown for the close association between business and the mafia. Network theory reveals the roles of each firm in the network, most importantly the individual power of a firm. With the information on the whole business sector, coupled with evidence supplied by the Italian Anit-mafia police, Gurciullo has been able to reveal the centralized corruption within the construction industry. The police evidence set the foundation for a claim against a group of construction firms, but the network mapping by Gurciullo illustrates the roles each firm played in the corrupt sub-network. “Sectors penetrated by organized crime show a higher than average Index of centrality and concentration, What’s more, the specific firms involved in organized crime tend to have a special place in the network.” In a network like this, success hinges on the communication and capability between firms; tracing the power flow of the network is key to understanding the relationship that exists within the network. A highly connective node is normally the most influential node in terms of centrality and access to scope; “At least one of the firms experiencing Mafioso infiltration possesses the highest nodal degree in the sector’s sub-network”, making evident that even corrupt firms need to be connected. 


There are limitations to this sort of research, for instance many corrupted firms may exist outside of the construction industry, creating a multi-industry network to large to make sense of. Another is that the research done on organized crime is limited, creating a mystery as to what patterns to look for in identifying corruption in a network. But for now, the current research by Gurciullo is already revealing parts to the puzzle of organized crime in Sicily. 


2 thoughts on “The Networks of Organized Crime”

  1. There are many networks for organized crime in the world. Interestingly, this is not recent problem. This organized crime has been exist since beginging of human history. In china, old proverbs said that a smart rabbit make three different exit holes. The corrupt sub nework is just one of many. The study of this network would be interesting to study as an economist, relationships of two firm and effect of society.

  2. While this analysis is quite interesting, the ingenuity of humans knows no bounds. I would not be surprised that, after learning about this new analysis, the mafia (and other crime organizations) adapt to throw off this kind of analysis. Just as people are aware of, and try to mitigate, the forensic analysis of police forces, it would not surprise me if organized crime groups found a way to make networks seem different than how they relaly are.

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